Your big beautiful beefy bulwark of badass.

warrior

Gracefully letting go

You see me now, a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
I’ve been living on the edge so long, where the winds of limbo roar
And I’m young enough to look at, and far too old to see
All the scars are on the inside
I’m not sure that there’s anything left of me

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
It’s time we had some leave
We’ve been living in the flames
We’ve been eating up our brains
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

Sometime in the early fall of 2005, a level 60 warrior walked into Molten Core for the first time.  He was wearing a mixture of low- and mid-50s green and blue gear, maybe one or two pieces of Tier 0 dungeon set stuff, a few “of the” bits here and there.  In his giant, three-fingered hands, he wielded a Fist of Omokk; in his backpack, a shield and some one-hand weapon infinitely worse than even the Fist.  He was spec’d 31/5/15, back in the days of vanilla WoW when warriors occasionally tried a hybrid spec to off-tank while still doing DPS.  He had been level 60 for less than two months, and existed in Azeroth overall for maybe six.

His player had taken him from Arms, to Fury, to Prot, and back to Arms, and now Arms/Prot hybrid.  His player had no clue what he was doing.  His player was scared and excited as he got on Ventrilo with 39 other people and headed toward his very first raid pull.

Last week, a level 85 warrior walked onto the top of Wyrmrest Temple for the fifth time and peered down at the fallen corpse of Ultraxion, Deathwing’s ultimate creation.  He was wearing three pieces of Tier 13 armor, with a token for a fourth just placed in his bags.  He carried a sword and shield torn from the depths of the Firelands.  His average ilevel of the gear on his body and in his bags was 388.  He was a dedicated, skilled Prot warrior, four years running, with a Fury offspec that he never used, because he was the raid’s tank on single-tank fights and shared duties with a longtime paladin friend on the tank-swap fights.

His player had played him for going on seven years.  His player had a blog now, and had written guides about How to Be a Prot Warrior (even if those guides were one expansion old).

His player was miserable and burned out.  And had been for months.

How did it come to this?

You ask me why I’m weary, why I can’t speak to you
You blame me for my silence, say it’s time I changed and grew
But the war’s still going on, dear, and there’s nowhen that I know
And I can’t stand forever
I can’t say if we’re ever gonna be free

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
It’s time we had some leave
We’ve been living in the flames
We’ve been eating up our brains
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

I took a long and convoluted path through raiding over my years in WoW.  In the beginning I had no intention of taking Linedan protection, I always wanted him to be a DPS warrior.  But the downsizing from 40- to 25-man raiding in The Burning Crusade, and having to hook up with a friend’s Karazhan 10-man as a tank because The Anvil, my current raid, had no room in the two Kara groups they’d formed, forced me to take Lin tanky…and the rest is history, I guess.  I grew to like it, then love it.  And I was able to work my way back into The Anvil and hang on to a spot as an offtank through TBC and into Wrath of the Lich King.

In Wrath, the raid went from three tanks to four in a rotation system.  There was tank drama as two different death knights came in at various times and moved into my raid role as #2 offtank.  Hence the rotation system, so they could keep four tanks on staff.  Despite that, I nearly lost my spot a couple of times and had to step my performance up.  But the rotation also meant that I got to actually main tank some fights for the first time.  And I was one of the two tanks the night The Anvil reached its crowning achievement, our lone Arthas 25-man kill.

Then the Cataclysm hit, in more ways then one.  The Anvil fell apart as people headed to guild 10-mans and the officers, after five hard years of cat herding, burned out.  Some of us formed two 10-man raids out of it, sharing some people but run separately one night a week, one on Wednesday and one on Friday.  After just a couple months, though, the two raids effectively merged into one two-night-a-week, three-hour-a-night raid.  With that raid, we moved through Tier 11 and 12 content.

It was partway through Bastion of Twilight/Blackrock Caverns that I began to notice that I wasn’t having as much fun in the 10s as I did in our old 25.  At first I chalked it up to less activity on Ventrilo and a slightly higher level of sobriety (but only slightly).  But as we slowly ground our way toward Cho’gall and Nefarian, the fun continued to lessen.  Then I thought that maybe I was just bored with the instances, and that it would pick back up when patch 4.2 dropped and we got to go to the Firelands.

It didn’t.  Firelands felt more like a slog than a fun way of overcoming challenges with friends.  I began to come to a horrifying realization.  After years of struggling and working to become a good tank, after finally achieving what I’d always wanted–a secure spot as a raid main tank–I was burned out.  Just when I’d hit my goal, I’d lost the fun of it.

So I went to our officers–my guildleader Ghaar and our Chief Cat Herder Dorritow–and asked for a sabbatical.  It would be the first true raid break I’d taken in over five years.  They approved, and so partway through Firelands I took a month off to recharge my batteries, the first time that I’d ever not attempted to raid when I was at home and the raid was going on.  And it helped.

But not enough.

When I came back, I fell back into my deepening spiral of burnout, made worse by the depression I’ve been flirting on-and-off with for years.  I only logged on during the week to raid, not even logging on alts to roleplay or Lin to accept calendar invites.  Instead of my old chatterbox self on Vent, I became more and more monosyllabic.  I found myself crossing my fingers that we wouldn’t find enough people so the raid would be cancelled.  When that tenth spot filled in, and the call went out to head to Firelands or Dragon Soul, I would sigh, shift in my chair, grumble a little bit, and head on inside.  Things that I never gave a damn about before–turns of phrase, certain fight mechanics, etc.–grated on my nerves like crunk in an old folks’ home.  My right hand was giving me low-grade chronic trouble on raid nights after a couple hours of hard tanking.  The second the raid was over, I would hearth back to Orgrimmar and immediately log out of WoW and Vent with nary a “good night.”  And I came to the dawning realization that this wasn’t salvageable.

I was done.  My raiding days, at least for quite a while, were over.

But obligation and pride are tough things to overcome.  Obligation, because I follow through on my commitments; me not wanting to be there didn’t matter, because the rest of my raid did, and therefore I was going to do what I always did–my best, whatever that was.  I worked hard to make sure that my performance never suffered no matter how badly I felt, and I think I pulled it off, if I’m honest.  Not to mention, these people are my friends, I’ve been raiding with most of them for years.  If I couldn’t raid for me, then I would suffer through the burnout and raid for them.

And pride, because I had finally “made it.”  I’d spent years falsely worrying that I was one step from being dropped from the raid every time I made a mistake.  I watched death knights move into my tanking spot and shatter my confidence because I thought the raid officers had brought them in to replace me instead of supplement us.  And through attrition and sheer dogged persistence more than anything else, I came out the other side as one of “the” two tanks in the surviving 10-man.  It is a very hard thing to let go of that after years of struggle.  I like being the main tank.  I like being on point.  I’m not the greatest tank in the world, never have been, never will be.  But I do the job that’s put in front of me to the best of my ability, and that’s gotten me to tanking a fairly successful (5/8 normal) T13 ten-man, so I guess I’m not that bad.

Well, matters came to a head this week.  There was no drama, no meltdown, no spectacular failure.  Dorri simply came to me and said that the officers had noticed the shape I was in–it wasn’t much of a secret, as I’m a very bad actor–and that if I needed to drop out, I could, they could find another tank.  And after we talked it out, I realized that she was right…that I was doing a disservice to myself and my friends in Doom and Blet if I kept digging myself into a hole and coming when I just wasn’t having any enjoyment with it.  It can have a subtle, corrosive effect on a raid over time when someone is so obviously down and depressed about being there.  I should know, I’ve seen it happen.  And now they were seeing it happen with me.

And so, I made the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in World of Warcraft.

The mighty Panzercow hung up his sword and shield.

You see me now, a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
My energy is spent at last, and my armor is destroyed
I have used up all my weapons, and I’m helpless and bereaved
Wounds are all I’m made of
Did I hear you say that this is victory?

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
Send me to the rear
Where the tides of madness swell
And men sliding into hell
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

So is this the end of WoW for me?  Not quite.  While I’m done with the raid effective immediately, I’m going to give it a month before I decide whether to suspend my account or not.  I haven’t had any desire to level alts so far in Cataclysm–my goblin is level 6, my worgen doesn’t exist, and my little dwarf tribute to the Tiny Angry Woman is only level 15–but maybe now I might.  I still should log Beltar on more to RP with the Wildfire Riders.  And it’s not like my game-playing schedule is empty outside of WoW.  Old Republic, iRacing, Skyrim, Mass Effect 3 coming out on March 6…trust me, my leisure time can be as full as I want it to be right now.  I’ll see most of my WoW raiding friends in Old Republic, and continue to follow WoW news through my hundreds of Twitterati.

And even if I do cancel my account and leave the game, it’s not necessarily permanent.  Rumor has it there’s a mysterious island full of pandaren out there, and I’m fairly sure that when the Mists of Pandaria finally lift and there’s evil to be fought there, a certain very large cow in very heavy armor will be on the first boat heading that way.  I don’t think Linedan’s story in Azeroth is quite done yet.

But even if it is, it’s been one hell of a ride.  Seven years, 85 levels, and thousands of memories.

I figure the big guy deserves a little R&R well off the front lines.  And, in the end, so do I.


The First Ten Seconds: Introduction

The title of this series is “The First Ten Seconds.”  It’s not relationship advice for meeting that certain someone across a crowded room…unless you’re trying to beckon that certain someone over so you can kill her and loot 91 silver off her corpse.  No, it’s based on a maxim about tanking that I just made up a while back, and it goes like this:

As go the first ten seconds, so goes the entire fight.

It’s a little saying that I’d completely forgotten during the later part of Wrath of the Lich King, especially when doing heroics.  WotLK heroics had turned into a complete joke in high-end raid gear, of course, and all of us were just bull-rushing our way through them like our asses were on fire, in the pursuit of the Holy Badgers of Whatever.  Then Cataclysm hit, and suddenly, heroics became, well, heroic again.  They were, as those of us with brains figured they’d be, damned hard.  Crowd control, the fine art of hexing and sheeping and banishing and shackling, went from useless to mandatory in the span of a few weeks.  And with even more difficult heroics on the horizon–the new Zul’whatever heroics in 4.1 will require a minimum item level of 346 just to get past the bouncers at the door–crowd control won’t be neglected anytime soon.

And with the rediscovery of crowd control came the rediscovery of the art of pulling and control.  In late Wrath, control was easy:  charge into the center of a bunch of mobs and push every AoE button you’ve got, then watch as the DPS pulls them off you anyway, but that was OK because the mobs all died in four seconds.  Now in Cataclysm, if you, as the tank, lose the handle on a trash pull, you’re probably going to wipe.  We’ve all had to rediscover the timing and interplay between the tank and the crowd controllers and the healers and the rest of the DPS.

So that’s what this series is going to be about…the first ten seconds of a pull, mostly as it pertains to trash.  It’s going to be about that period of time from the moment the first button is pushed to start a fight, until the mob(s) are settled in on the tank and the fight really “starts.”  In most trash pulls, this (in my experience) takes about ten seconds.  If you, as a group, execute these ten seconds properly, you’ll probably have a boring and uneventful trash pull.  If you don’t, even if you don’t wipe, you’ll probably end up with a bunch of trouble, raw tempers, and frustration.  (And in my case, a tank screaming obscenities at the screen and a wife rolling her eyes listening to me.  “GET BACK HERE YOU LITTLE FUCK GODDAMMIT I’VE GOT NO RAGE LET ME GET AGRO YOU STUPID BASTARDS STOP NUKING FFFFFFFF…”)

Preparation is Key

The next post in the series is going to concentrate on pulling.  Pulling in the latter stages of Wrath, as mentioned before, largely didn’t exist.  You, as the tank, just ran or charged in and spammed whatever you could knowing that it didn’t matter a bit–the DPS was going to go apeshit anyway and even the healer would just spam Smite or Moonfire or Chain Lightning or whatever.

But any tank who survived the sheer hell of heroics in The Burning Crusade knows how important pulling is.  Remember the gladiator hallway in Shattered Halls?  Groups of six mobs down the middle with wanderers in between and a few static singles as filler.  Move too far to one side and you’d pick up a group of five adds.  Don’t get them back far enough, and you’d get the wandering Houndmasters and their dogs, or the guys working out on the target dummies.  At least one, usually two of the group mobs were hunters, ranged and largely immobile.  Given all that, how do you pull it?

Cataclysm heroics aren’t quite that bad, but they’re a step back toward that level of difficulty from the overgeared facerolls of late Wrath.  You will, until we’re all running around in tier 13 or whatever, need crowd control and intelligent pulling to get through them.  Maybe some of you cutting-edge raiders are at the point where you can start to brute-force these things, but those of us down here with our average ilevel in the 330s or 340s (OK, Linedan’s is 351 right now) can’t.

So there you are, the tank, standing at the entrance of your favorite dungeon, ready for another exciting round of Will Anything Drop That I Can Actually Use.  You’ve got buffs, you’ve got food, you’ve got adult beverages (in RL), and you’re staring at the first trash pack.  And four pairs of virtual eyes are boring into your back, waiting for you to get the ball rolling.  The temptation is strong to just put the hammer down and gogogo.

Not so fast.

The first thing you should do, PUG or guild group or whatever, is decide who’s marking targets.  Somebody should always mark targets these days.  And when you decide who should mark targets, you also have to decide what each target means.  In a group that runs together a lot, that’s usually not an issue, everybody knows what each mark means.  But in a PuG especially, you can’t be sure.  A square may mean “mage sheeps it” to you, but to XxArthaslolxX from a PvP server, square may mean that he’s supposed to offtank it.  Never, ever, assume.  Get the definitions straight beforehand.  Somebody needs to, and if nobody steps up, you as the tank should be ready to do the marking and designation.  Put the symbols over the first trash group and say what they mean–“sheep square, trap moon, kill order is skull, X, moon, square.”  It’s not worth having a massive argument over, but it’s still something that should be laid out before the pull actually happens.

The other usual bone of contention in an unfamiliar group is–who actually pulls?  Normally, I always preferred to be the one to push the button to start the fight.  But the way things are working these days in Cataclysm, I now actually prefer to let the crowd controllers start the pull.  I’ll go into more detail in the pulling post, but my standard procedure, after we mark and decide who’s doing what, is to let the crowd controllers cast.  Their cast will aggro the group.  That exact moment is when I hit Heroic Throw on either the kill target, or an unallocated caster mob if we’re short on CC.  (That pulls that one particular mob to me, with a silence component to bring those inconvenient casters that much closer.)  It’s then on me as the tank to get the other uncontrolled mob or mobs on me before they eat the crowd controller.  It can be a tricky dance, but is more easily done with proper positioning.  All people doing ranged CC should stand pretty much together, and in a position where the tank can easily get to them.  (If they have to LOS pull, that needs to be taken into account.)

Again, I’ll talk about this more in the pulling post, but I’ll throw one other tidbit out there for my fellow warriors:  Charge is not necessarily your friend.  Charge Stun only hits one mob.  If there’s a second, it’ll keep on trucking for your squishies, and you’ll be playing catch-up.  And when I get to the post on initial control of the pull, we’ll see why playing catch-up is a recipe for disaster.  If you’re fast on your fingers, Heroic Leap can solve this problem.  I’m not, so often I tend to just run in.

The Gospel According to Marks

Before each pull, unless it’s obviously not needed, mark.  Use symbols consistently from group to group based on what you decided at the start of the run.  And your number one CC priority should be…(drumroll please)…hunter mobs. Casters can be silenced by ranged abilities from at least a few classes–Heroic Throw from me, Counterspell from a mage, Wind Shear from a shaman, etc.  When they’re silenced, they’ll run at their current agro target until they feel like casting again, which will usually get them in range of some sort of centered AoE or multi-target ability (Consecrate, Cleave, etc.).  But pure ranged hunter-class mobs are a stone bitch to position.  A death nugget can Death Grip them, which is hella handy if you’ve got a DK around or you’re a DK tank.  And of course you can LOS them if there’s a corner to run around.  But if you’re DK-less and in an open area with nothing to block sight, that hunter is just going to sit out there plinking somebody, and it’s probably not going to be the tank unless he goes and gets it.  And then we’re back to playing catch-up again.

So my priority list for CC is, in a nutshell:  hunter mobs, spellcaster mobs, and then everybody else.  There’s exceptions, of course, but in terms of keeping things simple, that’s how I like to see things marked.  Which priority you use inside those general categories (i.e., which spellcasting mobs get CC if you can’t get them all) is up to the particular group and instance.  There are even situations where you might want to pick a melee mob over a caster to CC–for example, if the caster is particularly squishy and you know you can (or need to due to mechanics) drop him fast.  This is where a knowledge of the instance is vitally important as a tank, so you can make intelligent choices about which mobs get a knock on the head or stuck into an ice cube, and which just get terminated with extreme prejudice immediately.

Next up:  The pull itself.  How do you get the mobs from points A, B, C, and D to point X?  We take a look at how to get a trash pack moving right where you want it…into the kill zone!


Coming Soon: The First Ten Seconds

So.  First off, let me apologize, yet again, for my slackness in updating this here fine upstanding blog.  There are a few reasons for this.

First–and I hate to admit it, but it’s true–I wrote most of my blog posts at work.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t be doing it, but come on, folks.  I know when you people read my blog, and here’s a hint–it’s between 9:00 and 5:00 in your appropriate time zone.  Otherwise my readership wouldn’t crash through the floor on Saturdays and Sundays.  Let he who is without slack cast the first Nerf dart and all that.  Well, a couple months ago, I was moved to a new cubicle that’s very much more out in the open than my old, isolated, rather private digs I had for almost three years.  Basically, I can’t keep the WordPress editor up all day and hammer posts into it by the thousands of words like I used to.  When I get home, I have a tendency to be pretty tired and more interested in playing games than writing about them.  So that has rather badly cramped my output.

Second, RL has been, as it has for the past few years, teabagging me like I’m a dead resto druid and it’s a rogue.  No need to go into the details (I’ve got a personal blog for stuff like that, and someday maybe I’ll update it again) but suffice to say that it’s taking a big chunk of my focus just to get through the days and weeks, without a lot left over to produce quality content.  And if I can’t at least attempt to produce quality content, I don’t produce content.  (Most of the time.)

And third, well, I just haven’t had that much to say about WoW.  Cataclysm is humming along.  4.0.6 has caused some of us to have to relearn some of our favorite classes (marks hunter wut wut).  Other people in the WoW blogosphere have been doing a fantastic job talking about things that I had formative ideas about.  It just feels like that for whatever reason, there hasn’t really been that much for me to say.  Like, say, “heroics are hard.”  Well, duh.  Of course they’re hard, they’re designed to be hard at this pre-raid level of gear a lot of us are rocking.  Give it six months and they won’t be (as) hard anymore.  The push to get Linedan to 85 and repped up with Dragonmaw and Therazane has, as I knew it would, caused me to back off a little bit and play less while I recharge to get my alts leveled, filling the slack with a bit of Star Trek Online, a bit of EVE Online, and a bit of various single-player games.

So, a quick update from Panzerville, and then I’ll get to why I’m actually posting this.  Linedan, the titular Panzercow, is back raiding again as one of the full-time tanks in a 10-man called “Doom and Blet,” expertly cat-herded by former Anvil Chief Cat Herder Dorritow and veteran Anvil raider and Seven Deadly Divas contributor Hammaryn.  So far, we’ve been poking at Blackwing Descent, and have dropped tne Omnomnomnomitron Defense System (I can haz tank lootz?) and Magmaw, the Giant Lava Penis, and have gotten Atremedes down to about 55%.  That, IMO, is not half bad after four weeks for a raid running only one night a week, 9:00-12:30 Eastern.

Beltar, my dwarf hunter, is my other character at 85 right now.  He hasn’t raided, in fact he hasn’t done any heroics yet (I hope to fix that soon).  This is largely because of my PUGaphobia, and the fact I’m still learning how to trap and CC.  Oh yeah, and re-learning his rotation because 4.0.6 took everything I’d learned about marks and stood it on its head.  (Aimed Shot useful again?  Seriously?  Getouttahere.)  All my other characters are at various places between level 82 and level, uh, 5.  I’ll get alts up someday, but I need to get over my burnout on the 80-85 Cata zones first.

Anyway.  The real reason I’m posting this is as self-motivation.  I’ve had an idea bouncing around my skullcage for a while, inspired by some heroics I’ve run on Lin, to do a small series on pulling and initial control of pulls.  It’s based on a very, very simple theory, to wit:  The first ten seconds of a fight is the most important part. If you can pull properly and control the fight for the first ten seconds, you are well on your way to victory and loot.  If you can’t, you’re well on your way to heartbreak, frustration, and getting kicked from PUGs.  And with the re-introduction of crowd control into instances with Cataclysm, pulling and grabbing initial control of pulls, especially trash packs, has gotten more complicated.  Who pulls, you or the CC?  Who decides kill order?  Who should you CC, who should you leave?  What do you use to pull?  Do you LOS?  Do you just charge in?  This is all stuff that, as a tank, you need to think about before pushing buttons.

So where’s the self-motivation?  I’ve told you about it now.  I have to write it.  Otherwise people on Twitter will hound me to no end about it.  Peer pressure is a wonderfully useful thing sometimes, isn’t it?

I can’t guarantee it’ll be done quickly, as I haven’t written any of it at all yet.  But watch this space, and hopefully in the next few days, I can get the first installment up.  In the meantime, peace out, kids.


Get this heavy cow off me

Well, I think that’s what it looks like the dragon is saying, anyway.

That is a Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquisher, and yes, that’s the Panzercow on the back of it.  The 10-man raid that I tank for made one last run into Icecrown Citadel on Saturday afternoon to clear the final obstacle we needed to get 10-player Glory of the Icecrown Raider…heroic Sindragosa.

I know there are those who are strict 10-man raiders who say that having 25-man gear, as most of our raid did, “trivializes” the 10-man content.  I can see that; we can pretty much roflstomp most of ICC on normal, even normal Arthas didn’t give us too much trouble.  And the more straightforward heroic-mode fights pushed us a little bit, but still, we were making solid progress toward our raidleader’s goal of getting drakes before Cataclysm dropped.  We even, amazingly, downed heroic Putricide after just five attempts.  Some of the acheesements gave us trouble (Been Waiting a Long Time For This was particularly annoying) but not too much…we even got Sindy’s acheesement, All You Can Eat, by just zerging her down from 35% instead of actually attempting to do the normal tank-switch method.

Heroic Sindy, however, was a different matter entirely.  It’s a brutally unforgiving fight, the already-intolerant mechanics turned up to 11 by frostbombs that can one-shot even the tanks, debuffs that cause casters to asplode, and frost breath that hits like a very icy truck once the Mystic Buffet is opened for dinner.  We threw ourselves at Sindy hard week before last, without success.  So if we were going to get her before Cataclysm released and everybody quit caring about “old” content, we had three hours on a Saturday to do it.

For two hours and fifty-six minutes, things didn’t look good for our heroes.  We wiped, and wiped, and wiped.  The best we’d done was get her to 18%.  Phase 2, at 35%, was just not working.  We couldn’t time the tank transitions right, or I’d forget a cooldown and get ganked by her frost breath, or a badly-timed Blistering Cold would slaughter half the raid, or she’d drop a bomb right on top of us during an air phase…it was always something.  None of the attempts had that smooth, well-oiled feel to them that you need to beat a fight like heroic Sindragosa.  I was frustrated and absolutely furious with myself.  I hadn’t played in several days leading up to the raid and it showed.  I made a lot of avoidable dumbass mistakes.  I don’t think I actually cost us a kill at that point, but it sure wasn’t helping.

So then, there we were.  4:57 pm Eastern with a stop time of 5:00.  The last attempt, on the last boss, on the last day, of the last raid before the expansion.  One shot.  All or nothing.  It looked like fourth-and-11 on our own 41 with one second on the clock…time to load up three receivers to the left and let fly a Hail Mary downfield.

And we did it.

That fight, that three hours of stress and wipes, was, in a way, this entire raiding expansion for me in miniature.  Starting off flailing and failing, making mistakes, then hanging in there and keeping on digging, grinding it out, persevering, and at the end, at the last possible moment, somehow it just all comes together.

I’ve always said that the two accomplishments I’m proudest of on Linedan in Wrath of the Lich King are his Loremaster title first and his one Arthas 25-man kill second.  That hasn’t changed.  This achievement, however–Glory of the Icecrown Raider–is a very, very close third.  It took us several months, but our little 10-man raid that ran for just three hours, just one afternoon a week, ended up the expansion as 11/12 heroic ICC.  That is an achievement to be very proud of indeed.  And this one comes with a big, bony, loud-flapping tangible reminder that I’ll see as I enter the brave new world of Cataclysm.

So to Ghaar, Grizz, Tahlian, Dorritow, Nikara, and all the rest–and to our regulars who never were able to get their drakes, Ghorr, Alanth, and Seijitsu–thank you.  It was a privilege to get hit in the face for you guys.  See you on the other side.


Random Acts of Friday II

I swear I’ve got some good posts percolating.  Somewhere.  No, seriously.  Really.  But in the meantime, have another fun-size grab-bag of “oh shit I really should post something” desperation…

- Bad news, melee DPS and tanks:  Nerfs are on the horizon with the latest 4.0.3 PTR patch build 13245.  MMO Champion has the details…it looks like that passive self-healing took a hit across the board, but none were worse than the nerf to Blood Craze in the Fury tree.  Previously it would heal 2.5% of max health per talent point over 10 seconds (so 2.5/5/7.5%); with 2/2 Field Dressing, that netted out to 9.6% of maximum health restored over 10 seconds, on a 10% chance per hit taken.  Build 13245 slashes that healing to 1/2/3%.  I don’t know what the final number will be with maxed Field Dressing, but I think it’ll be somewhere just north of 4%.  Obviously that’s a significant cut, and it remains to be seen whether that will render Blood Craze a much less “mandatory” talent.  I’ve been of the opinion that it’s a no-brainer to take it just to lessen the strain on our healers, but so far, our healers haven’t been straining, even on ICC-level content.  That may change once we head into Cataclysm and see the instances there.  In the meantime, I’m giving serious thought to dropping Blood Craze at least temporarily and loading those points over into maxing Shield Specialization in the hope of solving some of the occasional rage issues Linedan and Latisha are both running into.

- The Anvil, our 25-man raid, folded up shop for the duration last night with a final run through the raid weekly (Malygos).  We’re now on hiatus and will be back in action for Cataclysm around January 13, 2011.  Our final scorecard:  Cleared Naxx, cleared Ulduar normal with a few hardmodes here and there, cleared Trial of the Wake Me Up When It’s Over, and never bothered with Trial of the Wake Me Up OH GOD MY FACE (the heroic version).  We completed normal 25-man ICC with our single hard-fought and emotional Arthas kill, and did get two heroic encounters in there done, Lootship and Rotface.  It’s not exactly a record that the Paragons or Ensidias of the world would find impressive, but it’s by far the best we’ve ever done for an expansion, and I wouldn’t trade the fun and hilarity we had for all the world-firsts in the, uh, world.  It was a hell of a ride, kids, and I’m glad I was along for it.

- That doesn’t mean I’m quite done with raiding, though.  I tank a 10-man that runs for three hours each Saturday afternoon, and with The Anvil shutting down temporarily, that means we’ll be going back into ICC for more heroic modes (we’re currently 7/12 HM) and a crack at those tasty proto-drakes.  Of course, that means heroic Putricide…and heroic Sindragosa…and what I know is going to be the bane of my existence, All You Can Eat.  Oh God.

- There was a minor kerfuffle in the WoWosphere over the past couple days when Frostheim, WoW Insider hunter columnist and main guy over at the Warcraft Hunter’s Union blog, posted a story about running heroic Old Kingdom and what happened therein.  (It’s too complicated to rehash here…go read Frostheim’s post and the rest of this will make sense.)  Most of his commenters backed him up on it, or at least thought it was funny (and honestly, I can see that).  Well, Amber at I Like Bubbles offers the counterpoint, in which she brings up the valid (and, IMO, accurate) point that when you’re a higher-visibility member of a community, you really shouldn’t go around acting like a penis.  Not that you ever should anyway, but you get the idea.

And, here’s a few random gems from the Interwebs:

Y’all have a good weekend, and remember, it’s all fun and games until Deathwing puts somebody’s eye out.


I’m ready for my close-up (I’m on the WoWPhiles Podcast!)

A couple of weeks ago, the guys at the WoWPhiles Podcast put the call out on Twitter asking for people to volunteer to be on their podcast talking about their favorite class and spec, providing advice for new players and stuff like that.  For reasons still as yet unknown to me, I volunteered.  Also for reasons still as yet unknown to me, they accepted.

So after a hurried install of Skype (which caused a few blown eardrums in my raid after it automagically jacked up my mic volume in Ventrilo, BTW) and some quick research, I hooked up with Jason from WoWPhiles and recorded a segment for Episode 47 of the show, which is now up for download or listening on their website.  The show also features Bliky from One Man Raid talking about survival hunters, and the lovely and talented Liala from Disciplinary Action talking about everybody’s favorite bubble vendors, disc priests.

I’m actually listening to my segment as I type this, and boy, you’d think I’d know this by now considering I’m 44 years old, but I didn’t quite realize my voice was that high-pitched.  My wife calls it a “tenor.”  To me, it sounds like Red Shirt Guy on helium.  More precisely, Red Shirt Guy on helium and meth, because I was so nervous, I was talking about a hundred miles an hour.  Oh, and Time Warner can lick my sweaty balls because our upload bandwidth is crappy enough that it cut me out a few times.  I have enough issues with sounding like a gnome IRL without also sounding like Max Headroom.

There’s some great information on the podcast.  It’s two hours and twenty-seven minutes of jam-packed WoW information, with a dash of Panzercow topping.  So go check it out!

 


Random acts of Friday

I don’t know if this is going to become a regular feature of Achtung Panzercow or not–is anything ever regular around here?–but hey, it’s Friday, and I’m feeling random.  So here’s a grab bag of stuff.

- I ran ICC 25N last night with Linedan in our “third tank” position.  Basically, it’s the utility infielder job, where sometimes I tank and sometimes I DPS.  I think I swapped specs six times in three hours, going Prot for Marrowgar, Deathwhisper + trash, Putricide, and Team Edward Sparkle Disco Party and Blood Wing trash, and Fury for everything else.  (We cleared everything but Sindragosa and Arthas.)  It’s kind of a crappy job, because being the third tank on fights like Marrowgar and Putricide is pretty boring.  You stand there, you do lousy DPS.  And the constant spec-switching makes it hard to get into a good rhythm.  But, since we rotate our four tanks around week to week, everybody gets to do it.

- Last night was my first raid trying out Fury in 4.0.  It’s…interesting.  My damage was up from 3.x, not as far up as the casters of course (warlock sustaining 18k for the first half of ICC…wtf?) but still up about 15%.  The rotation’s changed a bit, with Whirlwind’s damage nerf removing it from common use in favor of Raging Blow on single targets, I guess.  The numbers I saw flying across the screen were impressively big, with lots of five-digit crits bouncing around, but the overall damage wasn’t reflecting that.  I’m guessing that’s because I no longer have Deep Wounds ticking constantly, and the change to Bloodsurge (only firing off Bloodthirst hits and not Heroic Strike hits) means a lot fewer free Slams.  Still, I managed to crack 10k DPS on Saurfang and 12k on Festergut.  Frighteningly, 12k DPS was only good for tenth place on Festergut.

- Further on Fury…the damage feels “lumpy,” for lack of a better word.  It comes in bursts, like when Raging Blow and Heroic Strike come off cooldown at the same time, or when I get a lucky streak of Bloodsurge procs.  There aren’t a whole lot of dead spots, and in general it feels a bit more active than the 3.x “Bloodthirst, Whirlwind, oh look, let’s spam Heroic Strike/Cleave and pray I get a Bloodsurge proc before I fall asleep” setup.  However, I was surprised to find that my rotation wasn’t always cooldown-limited, but rage-limited.  I rarely had rage issues as Fury in 3.x.  There were a fair number of points last night where everything on my bar was either dark or on cooldown, and the waits to rebuild rage were agonizing.  Just like with Prot, overuse of Heroic Strike or Cleave for Fury left me in a bad spot quite a bit.  Finding the balance of when to HS and when not to HS is going to take me some time.

- One more thing on Fury…Execute spam is back with a vengeance.  The tooltip seemed to indicate that it would only do about 4000 damage.  I was dropping regular hits in the 13-17k range, with crits as high as 34,000.  On Blood Queen Lana’thel, when I got bitten late in the fight, I hit a lucky streak and was able to land six Execute crits in a row for between 55,000 and 65,000 damage each.   I AM A LARGE FURRY VAMPIRIC GOD.

- I am in the process of doing some adjustments on Linedan and I need help from the Prot community.  When in his normal tank gear, which is mostly ilevel 264ish, he runs about 50k health, 22% dodge and parry, 30% block (no mastery yet), 4.5% hit, and 12 expertise.  I’ve decided I need to boost his hit and expertise back up toward the caps in this brave new world of lower tank threat and higher DPS.  I actually reforged him out of about 1.2% of dodge this morning to get him to a bit over 6% hit and 15 expertise, and am seriously considering replacing the Mongoose enchant on his tank weapon with Accuracy (+25 hit, +25 crit).  Right now, he’s gemmed straight +30 stamina except for other stuff to get his meta activated.  If anyone wants to take a look at his Armory (link over to the right in the sidebar) and toss out an opinion on where I can close the gaps to 8% hit and 23 expertise, it’d be appreciated.

- Speaking of tanking, we got some fairly significant shield-related changes announced yesterday.  MMO Champion has the blue posts on Shield Block changes reposted here, and Zellviren over at The Dead Good Tanking Guide has an explanation of why the reduction of the Shield Block bonus block chance from +100% to +25% really isn’t that big a nerf.  (Zellviren’s excellent link courtesy of Rhidach at Righteous Defense.)  In addition, the latest beta build 13221 has significantly increased the base damage on Shield Slam–as in, a 125% increase, about 1100 points before attack power’s added in.  But, the catch is that Shield Slam damage now scales less with attack power.  So my guess is that our normal Shield Slams will hit harder, which is good, because they’ve been behind Revenge for a while in beta now.  But once we get our Vengeance on and are wandering around with five-digit attack power and Shield Block activated (with 2/2 Heavy Repercussions), we probably won’t see those massive wood-inducing crits anymore.  Good-bye, 46k Shield Slam crits.  I’ll always remember our crazy nights together.

- Have a few other great blog posts from this past week, around the WoWosphere:

  • Vosskah at Sword and Board talks about his first impressions of 4.0.1 tanking.
  • Kadomi at Tank Like a Girl is putting together a list of warrior blogs for all specs, not just Prot.  DPS warriors in particular seem very underserved in the WoWosphere, so if you know of a good warrior blog, send it her way.
  • Amber at I Like Bubbles has cat macros.  What else do you need?
  • The saga of Gerald continues at Righteous Orbs.
  • Finally, the community is losing two outstanding bloggers.  Laranya at Root and Branch has decided to pack it in after a short but spectacular run; thank you, Laranya, and keep hanging out on Twitter, we miss you!
  • And one of the best warrior tank resources, Tanking Tips, is closing its doors.  Veneretio has been bringing the theory for a long time now, and his departure is going to leave a big void.  Vene, as one of the tanks who have been immeasurably helped by your hard work, thank you, and we’ll really miss your insight.

- And, in closing, I can announce that yours truly, the Panzercow, has completed his first attempt at podcasting!  I will be doing a segment on Prot warriors on the WoWPhiles Podcast that should be out this weekend.  Keep an eye out for it, and you too can hear that, in fact, I sound absolutely nothing like a Tauren.  (Plus, Liala from Disciplinary Action is on there too!)


The Department of (no more) Defense

To me, one of the best tanking changes that’s come along with Cataclysm and patch 4.0.1 is the complete removal of the Defense stat from WoW.  At first, when I heard about it, I was a little annoyed, because I thought it was going to upset the whole apple cart in terms of how I geared.  Then when I heard about the trees, I was a little annoyed that I’d have to blow two of my precious first 31 points in the Prot tree in order to be uncrittable.

I was, as usual, completely wrong.

The removal of Defense from the game opens up a veritable world of possibilities for us as tanks.  Think about it.  By putting two talent points in Bastion of Defense, we’re accomplishing the same thing as stacking 689 (I think) Defense rating, or 140 Defense points, on our gear at level 80.  And honestly, you’d almost certainly take Bastion of Defense anyway because of the 10%/20% Enrage chance on a successful block, dodge, or parry.  So it’s all gain, no real loss.  We can equip anything and we’re still uncrittable.

In this strange interregnum before the world falls apart, where we’re dealing with classes balanced for level 85 stuck at level 80, where we overgear 95% of the content, this removal of Defense is having something of an odd effect on one of our common tanky pastimes…the random heroic.  Yeah, I know, running random PUGs is about as much fun as a prostate exam (or a pap smear for you ladies) these days, but there’s still reasons that we have to do it–snagging Justice Points for offset upgrades, or heirlooms for your alts, or gearing up guildies.

Now if you’ve tanked some heroics the past two weeks, you know that your AOE threat is down a bit, or maybe more than a bit depending on your class.  At the same time, the badge to Justice Point conversion has let some people drastically upgrade their gear, as their stockpile of Triumph badges let them buy some more Tier 10.  Add in the huge DPS increases that some classes got (yes, mages, you can stop cackling gleefully now), and the fact that people still cannot grasp the concept of “wait two seconds to let the tank get agro,” and I’ll bet you’ve been having a moderately frustrating time running your heroics.

Well, ol’ Uncle Panzercow is here to give you a tip:

Run them in your DPS gear.  Or your PvP gear.

You do have DPS gear, right?  I imagine that most tanks do have a DPS offspec.  Many of you have probably accumulated some PvP gear, maybe even the high-quality arena stuff.  Some, I know, do have dual prot or other tanking specs, or no offspec at all, and if you do, that’s OK, but you still might want to rummage around for some DPS gear here and there.  Here’s why.

If you are badge-geared in T9 or T10-level tank stuff, you overgear the hell out of every single heroic out there–yes, even Halls of Will You Idiots Line-of-Sight the Goddamn Phantom Mage, Please.  You’ve got so much avoidance stacked, you’re starved for rage because you aren’t getting hit.  Your crit%’s in the single digits and you’re rocking far north of 40,000 health, maybe more than 50,000.  Healers fall asleep because you never get in trouble.  Thing is, though, with the 4.0 threat changes, now you’re probably having a lot more trouble keeping agro on trash packs when the DPS decide to go “DUUUURP BIG NUKE” right at the start of the fight.  No rage, no threat, and here comes the spew in /party of “zomg wtf ur bad tnak.”

Now suppose you have a near-equivalent set of DPS gear–again, T9ish or higher.  Try an experiment.  Stay in Prot spec and Defensive Stance, but put the DPS gear on with your tank weapon and shield.  Now look at your stats.  You do still have some dodge and parry percentages, I’ll guess they’re in the high single digits.  Your block percentage hasn’t changed much, it’s 30% plus whatever mastery you’ve reforged onto either set of gear.  Your AP is probably up (remember, no Armored to the Teeth anymore), your crit% is way up, and your health isn’t down nearly as far as you thought.  Most DPS plate still stacks a big chunk of stamina on it, and you still get that +15% to your stamina from mastery.  If you have PvP gear?  Same thing, with even more stamina.

Voila.  You’re basically in tank gear a tier or two below your “real” tank gear…except your DPS is going to skyrocket.

I’ll use a real-world example with Linedan.  He’s fully geared in sanctified T10, ilevel 251 and 264 tank items.  In a random heroic, that gives him, eh, 23% dodge and parry each, 55,000 health buffed out, 27k armor, 2.6% base crit, 3600 attack power.  If I swap over to his Fury set, but stay in Prot spec/Defensive Stance, use his Scourgebourne Waraxe as a weapon, and keep his shield equipped?  9% dodge, 13% parry, about 22k armor.  But…try 35% crit, 4400 attack power, and still well over 40,000 health.

I have tanked a couple of heroics using the hybrid DPS gear/Prot spec setup and let me tell you, it’s been brilliantly effective.  The acid test was in Forge of Souls last night.  We had a death nugget, a boomkin, and a rogue for DPS.  The rogue liked to sneak forward and had an odd knack for picking the wrong target to attack.  And we all know that  boomkins can be serious threat monsters now.  Also, don’t forget that FoS is one of the trickier instances for pulling and gathering due to the wide spacing of the trash groups between the entrance and Bronjahm.

It turned out to be probably the smoothest and fastest FoS run that I’ve ever tanked…and I didn’t do anything differently from how I ran it in 3.3.  Except in my Fury gear, I was generating insane threat.  Enough to keep a slightly trigger-happy rogue, a critchicken, and a T10-geared DK alive with only a few taunts here and there.  Blood and Thunder was very effective, and I was getting enough rage from incoming hits that I could use Cleave and Thunder Clap reasonably often to hold threat over the healgro.  I ended up pumping out an astonishing 3600 dps for the run, just behind the DK’s 3800 and just ahead of the rogue and boomkin.  That’s not half bad for a warrior tank in an heroic.

Now, was I getting hit more?  Yep.  Did that make the healer (a priest) work harder?  Well, technically, yes, but when’s the last time you saw a healer have to work at all to keep a T10-geared tank up in a heroic?  The priest never went below 70% mana, and I rarely went below 70% health.  In fact, it was a good thing that I was getting hit more.  Remember Vengeance?  I take more damage, I get more attack power, I deliver more damage, which means more threat, which means the DPS can go harder?  It’s the great Circle of Pain, as Elton John might sing.

Now, DPS gear is viable for tanking any content that you outgear, certainly not for progression stuff.  I don’t think I’d try taking on Arthas in my T10 Fury gear, and I probably wouldn’t even use it in Trial of the Oh God It’s The Same Round Room Again Kill Me Now, but weekly raids in Naxx or Ulduar or Eye of Eternity?  Heroics?  Yep.  I’d do it in a heartbeat…after clearing it with the healer(s) and the raidleaders.  You will get hit more, and you’ll need to be careful of encounters that toss out a lot of damage–for example, I put the real tank gear back on for Devourer of Souls in FoS, simply because Phantom Blast hits very hard, and I wanted a little cushion in case I missed a Spell Reflect or interrupt and something went sideways with the healing.  But for trash?  DPS gear, kids.  It works.

In fact, come Cataclysm, I think it may work better for us to level as Prot in our DPS or PvP gear.  I didn’t try it much on the beta but I probably should’ve.  We would still get the benefit of Prot’s survivability, with higher DPS.  It’s definitely something to think about.


With great Vengeance

“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers! And you will know my name is the Lord [pulls out his gun and aims it at Brett] when I lay my vengeance upon thee!”    –Samuel L. Jackson, “Pulp Fiction”

I’ve been a bit behind the curve on getting up to speed with the changes that hit us in patch 4.0.1–being out of town for five days just after the patch dropped will do that, since it meant I missed The Anvil’s first 25-man raid last Thursday.  But I was there for this week’s hoedown, and I was front and center in the main tank slot for Sindragosa and Arthas.  It was, in several ways, a very edumacashunal (as we said back in the sticks where I grew up) evening.

Really, tanking last night didn’t feel very different from when I tanked Sindy and Arthas in 3.3.  As a prot warrior, my priority system has changed very little; less Heroic Strike, one Rend at the start of a fight followed by a Thunder Clap to stick it on all mobs, and other than that, it’s the same old same old.  Sword and Board proc’d Shield Slams come first, then Shield Slam, then Revenge, with Devastate as the filler, Heroic Strike to bleed rage, and at least one Thunder Clap every 12-15 seconds to keep Rend and the slow up.  The biggest change to my years of muscle memory is that I now have to unlearn something that it took me two years to learn, which is Heroic Strike spam.  I never used to hit it enough.  Now I’m hitting it too much.  I actually found myself badly rage-starved early in the Lich King fight on two or three occasions, when I got an avoidance streak combined with overaggressive HS use.  Since Lin doesn’t have any points in Shield Specialization, he doesn’t get any rage back when he blocks.  If I’m careful with HS, no problem.  If I’m not, I can dig myself a momentary hole.

The biggest changes had to do with threat.  My main education last night was seeing how threat works in the 4.0 world, and what I need to do as the tank–and what the DPS needs to do–to make everything go smoothly.

Our first Arthas pull was a disaster.  One of our ret paladins ripped agro off me in less than ten seconds.  Then a warlock pulled off her, then a feral druid pulled off him…two people dead almost instantly.  And the DPS didn’t back off to let me get him back.  I admit I let out a growl that scared the cats and probably made my poor wife think I was turning into a worgen IRL.  I hate losing agro…I don’t generally get mad at the person who pulled unless they did some serious durp, I just generally chalk it up to me not being able to put out the threat.

After that, the raid leaders asked the DPS to wait before unloading, both to give me more solid threat time and to give the offtank more time to get more ghouls on him, for Necrotic Plague stacks.  I didn’t have any more significant threat issues after that, but I did notice something.  My snap agro at the beginning of a fight is definitely off from the world of 3.x.  My usual opening combo of Heroic Throw/Shield Slam just wasn’t sticking mobs to me like it used to.  Combine that with the huge DPS gains that certain classes (I’m looking at you, warlocks) have received in 4.0, and the old adage of “wait for the sunders” suddenly becomes more important than ever.  Opening with a big nuke is going to get your face eaten.

And the reason for this, I believe, is the Vengeance mechanic.  It’s a mastery that all tank class/spec combos–blood death nuggets, prot pallies, beardurids, and prot warriors–get in Cataclysm.  Put simply, whenever you take damage, 5% of that damage number is added to your attack power for 10 seconds, up to a total maximum of 10% of your maximum health.  So if Arthas smacks you upside the head for 20,000 damage, you get 1000 added to your attack power for 10 seconds.

When Vengeance first came out in the alpha, it looked pretty much like it does now.  And I was convinced at the time that it would never go live in that form, because the numbers shaped up to be ridiculous.  When tanking ICC, Linedan typically buffs out at over 72,000 health.  So merely by getting hit by Arthas a few times, he could pick up as much as 7200 attack power?  That would put him well over ten thousand AP.  No way that Blizzard would ever let a tank have that much AP, right?

Shows you how much I know.

My first indication of the effect that Vengeance was having was when I started seeing some big yellow numbers float up on my screen during Arthas phase 1.  I mean, big yellow numbers.  Five-digit big.  As a prot warrior, I rarely see five-digit yellow numbers on Lin, so out of curiosity, I opened up his character pane.

Attack power?  Wobbling between 12,000 and 12,500.  His base AP with buffs at pull time was roughly 4700.  Throw in a few other buffs in combat, and the difference would be around 7,000…indicating that he’d hit the ceiling on Vengeance.

You can imagine what a prot warrior with twelve thousand AP was doing.  18k Revenge crits.  15k normal Shield Slam hits without Shield Block up.  The night’s crowning glory was a Shield Blocked Shield Slam crit for precisely 41,564.  On one Arthas attempt where we never got out of phase 1 due to the OT dying, Lin did well over 8000 dps.  On the attempts where we got well into phase 2 before it all fell apart, he was still doing around 6000 dps.  That’s double what he was doing in 3.3.

And here’s the kicker…he needed it.  Because once the DPS got the clearance to put their foot to the floor, that six to eight thousand DPS was giving me the threat-per-second I needed to stay ahead.  Without it, there’s no way.  We had three warlocks each doing well north of 10,000 DPS consistently.  That’s a lot of threat to have to overcome.  At Lin’s normal 3000 DPS, I really don’t think he could have stayed ahead of them.  But at 6000, 7000, 8000 DPS?  He did.  If they gave me 10 to 15 seconds of light DPS at the beginning–not even no DPS, just taking it easy–then dropped the hammer, I could stay ahead of them easily.  If they went for it right from the start?  No chance I could hang on.

So it seems obvious to me after this experience that Blizzard is now balancing tank threat around the Vengeance mechanic.  On boss fights, they are expecting the tank to have a huge boost in attack power thanks to Vengeance, and be putting out damage that’s pretty insane compared to pre-4.0 levels.  DPS threat will be tuned around that.  If we take that as a given–and it’s not, it’s just my observation and opinion, but let’s just roll with it–it leads to a couple of interesting conclusions.

First, every tank class, even prot warriors, the previous “kings of snap agro,” now has a ramp-up time on their maximum threat.  Beforehand, if we had enough rage, we could just unload a couple of high-threat moves and get a solid hold on the target, or a DK could just inappropriately Icy Touch something and it would be stuck on him like glue.  No more.  If our threat in relation to the DPS’ is balanced around us having six or seven or eight thousand more attack power than we do at the start of a fight, where they don’t have the same restrictions, it means we will always need a period of time to take a few hits to the head and get good and pissed off before we’re putting out enough pain to let the DPS go nuts.  This is an important point for DPS to remember.  We massively overgear heroics now and can just durp our way through them (that’s my next rant, coming soon), but that stuff won’t even work in 80+ normals from what I’ve seen in the beta.

Second, tank-swap fights just got a little more interesting.  We saw this on Arthas last night when Haicu (my DK tank partner) and I would swap Arthas at Soul Reaver time.  It’s similar to the problems tanks deal with on Festergut and his damage-increasing Gastric Bloat.  The tank who has just taunted has not taken huge amounts of damage so he hasn’t had time to ramp up his Vengeance.  The tank who has just been taunted from, on the other hand, is probably maxed out on his attack power and hitting like a dump truck with no brakes, full of angry burning bears.  The “from” tank is going to have to watch himself for about 10 to 12 seconds after the swap and perhaps not go full-out, especially if he significantly outgears the other tank, or he may rip agro right back.

It’s very easy to dismiss Vengeance if all you do is normal questing or even random heroics.  Current non-raid content simply doesn’t hit hard enough for long enough to give you the most benefit from the mastery.  But when you get into a situation where you’re on a big boss, especially a raid boss, Vengeance comes into its own.

Now, does a 41k Shield Slam crit make up for not being at Blizzcon this weekend?  No.  But it does soothe the pain, just a little bit…


4.0.1: No, you are not going to die (much)

It’s D-Day, kids.  We’re getting patch 4.0.1 today (or tomorrow for you folks on EU servers), which means we’re getting most of the mechanical changes that come with Cataclysm.  This includes the new trees, new skills, new glyphs, reforging, the removal of armor penetration and Defense…in short, think of it as its own little Cataclysm of how we play the game.

Well, I’ve never been one to avoid rolling with the crowd on a momentous day like today.  I’m a good little lemming, so let’s throw some information and opinions out there on Prot warrioring in the new and (hopefully) wonderful world of 4.0.1…

First of all, let me give you two awesome resources as you start scrambling around.  First, as I linked previously, Naithin at Fun in Games has put together a fan-damn-tastic Prot warrior 4.0.1 guide that will give you everything you need to get started.  There’s really not all that much I can add except to give my own opinions on a few things, which is what I’ll be doing in this post.

Second, the lovely (and freshly Kingslayerish!) Kadomi over at Tank Like a Girl has a great list of 4.0.1 warrior (and other) resource links.  These will get you up to speed on setting up your spec, glyphs, and reforging.

Now with all that linked and at your fingertips, you probably don’t need me durping around giving my half-baked opinions on things.  But, I’m going to do it anyway, because (a) it’s my blog, and (b) I’m out of town for a week starting on Thursday and need a blog post up before I go.  Suck it.

What things you can expect to see when you first log in, other than an assload of LUA errors and “SERVER:  Restart in 5:00″?  Well, your health will go up a bit thanks to a flat +15% from Prot mastery, and your armor will go down a bit, especially if you’re rocking bonus armor pieces like Pillars of Might or the Cataclysmic Chestguard.  The changes are probably within about 10% in both cases.  Defense is gone, and unlamented if you ask me.  Defense gems will change into…uh…something else.  Defense rating on items will change into straight dodge and parry.  There is no more shield block value; successful blocks now block 30% of that hit’s damage, or 60% on a critical block.  Shield Slam damage now scales off attack power like everything else.  You will have a base 30% chance to block, given by your Prot mastery; the only way to raise it is by adding Mastery rating, which will require us to use Reforging to add it to our gear.  And your mastery will give you Vengeance, which takes 5% of damage that you suffer and adds it to your attack power for 10 seconds.  All tanks get this mastery; it’s designed to crank up our damage, and thus threat, while tanking.

The talent tree changes are, obviously, probably the biggest single change we face.  (Hey, at least they didn’t change us over from rage to focus.)  To do a quick recap:  Talent trees are now 31 points deep instead of 51.  At level 10 you must pick a tree, and you are locked into that tree and only that tree until you take the 31-point talent…at level 69.  Only then may you pick things from the other two trees.  Talent points now come one every two levels (one at 10, one at 11, and one every odd level thereafter).  This means that your level 80 warrior tank will have 36 talent points to spend, 31 of which have to go into the Prot tree.  The days of any sort of hybrid build are over.

Now looking at the two-month span between now and the release of Cataclysm, it’s obvious that you won’t be leveling if you’re already 80.  You probably won’t be doing much if any solo questing or grinding (again, if you’re 80), unless you’re doing something like going for Loremaster.  So by elimination, you need a build that’s focused on tanking.

This is my first shot at one.  It gives up some talents that would increase DPS–talents that I’d consider taking in a build where I was doing more simple running-around-and-killing-shit–and leans toward multiple-target threat, damage mitigation, and self-healing.  Looking through the Prot talents tier-by-tier:

Tier 1: Incite just doesn’t grab me real hard.  It looks like a bit of a damage (and threat) boost but I don’t know that we’re going to need it with Defensive Stance giving us +200% threat on everything we do.  Toughness, that’s a no-brainer, especially with “bonus armor” taking the nerf bat in a big way.  Blood and Thunder is actually a fairly effective AOE threat mechanic.  I still think the dear departed Damage Shield was better, but B&T has seemed, in the beta, to be reasonably effective at holding threat over top of healgro.  It won’t save the DPS if they focus the wrong target, but it’s not meant to.  The one disadvantage to B&T is, obviously, you can easily stick a Rend on a CC’d mob if your placement is poor.  So make sure you fight well away from sheeps and saps and such.

Tier 2: Lots and lots of points here.  3/3 Shield Mastery is a no-brainer, as is 2/2 Gag Order.  The jury is still very much out on Hold the Line; I’ve got it on Lin in the beta because his crit is basically non-existent, he’s stacked a bit of parry to help this proc, and the crit boost helps his damage while grinding.  I don’t know how much use it will be in dungeon and raid tanking, though.  As for Shield Specialization, it hasn’t proven to be a “must have” talent.  Rage has not been a huge issue for Linedan in the beta once I learned to back off constantly hitting Heroic Strike like I was tanking Arthas.  My opinion is this:  put 7 points in this tier.  Five of them go into Shield Mastery and Gag Order.  The other two can go either 0/3 Shield Spec and 2/2 Hold the Line for a bit of a damage boost, or 2/3 Shield Spec if you think you’re rage-starved.  For now, I’ll go with Hold the Line here until I get a better feel on rage.

Tier 3: Take it all.  Take ALL the talents.  Last Stand, duh.  Concussion Blow, duh.  Bastion of Defense, duh.  Warbringer, duh.  Fill this tier.

Tier 4: Again, I would take everything here.  2/2 Improved Revenge makes Revenge hit like a truck on fire driven by angry burning bears, plus lets it hit a second target–very important for multi-target tanking.  Devastate is a no-brainer, it’s our major spammable everything-else-is-on-cooldown attack.  Impending Victory doesn’t buy you much against non-elites, but it helps on bosses, and trust me, anything that will take a load off a healer right now is going to be appreciated.  Healers have a brutally tough job in 4.0.

Tier 5: I’m not completely sold on Thunderstruck.  It does synergize very nicely with Blood and Thunder, though, so I’d probably take both points in it if I took B&T.  Vigilance doesn’t transfer threat anymore, instead it gives you the refreshed taunt if the recipient gets hit and gives you a small bit of AP from the Vengeance mastery (you get 5% of 20% of the damage they took as attack power…hence, “small”).  The Taunt refresh is the main use of it now.  Heavy Repercussions doubles your Shield Slam damage whenever Shield Block is up.  I think it’s an inefficient use of points, but we’ve got to put them somewhere, and I think it’s just barely a better deal than Incite.  Granted, I have no numbers to back it up, just a gut feel and an inordinate love for giant Shield Slam crits.

Tier 6: Safeguard still doesn’t seem worth it to me.  Sword and Board is a no-brainer.

Tier 7: It’s OK.  I’ve got Shockwave.

That gives us precisely 31 points in Prot, with five points left to spend.  The last five points are spent on things that help take the load off our overworked healer brethren:  2/2 Field Dressing in Arms and 3/3 Blood Craze in Fury.

This 2/3/31 layout is probably going to be pretty cookie-cutter, but there is a tiny bit of flexibility there in the Prot tree.  If you don’t think you need as much AOE threat but need more raw damage output you can drop the points from Blood and Thunder and Thunderstruck to put them into Incite.  If you’re rage-starved, load up 3/3 Shield Specialization at the expense of Hold the Line.  The thing to remember is that you won’t be able to get any second-tier Arms or Fury talents until Cataclysm comes out, you won’t have the points…and even then, you’ll have to plan ahead.

Now, glyphing.  Glyphs come in three flavors now:  prime (things that increase your primary function, DPS, HPS, threat, etc.), major (useful and helpful things), and minor (“fun” or small semi-useful things).  Prime glyphing a Prot warrior is easy because there’s only three pertinent ones for you to pick:  Devastate, Revenge, and Shield Slam.  For major glyphs, you’ve got more choices…but one of your three must be the Glyph of Victory Rush.  It supercharges your heals from Victory Rush and Impending Victory, and again, in the 4.0 world, you’ve got to do everything you can to make your healer’s job easier.  There are several useful major glyphs to pick from, including Heroic Throw (puts a Sunder Armor stack on the target), Cleaving (Cleave hits 3 targets instead of 2), Resonating Power (-5 rage on Thunder Clap), Spell Reflection (-1 second cooldown on Spell Reflect), Shockwave (-3 second cooldown on Shockwave), or Sunder Armor (Sunder a second target).  You can make a case for any of them, so pick whatever you want.  (I’m so decisive, aren’t I?)  For your minor glyphs, a common suggestion seems to be to stack all three Shout glyphs (Battle, Commanding, and Demoralizing); but don’t ignore the Enduring Victory glyph, which increases the window for Victory Rush use from 20 to 25 seconds.

Your tanking rotation really doesn’t change very much.  You no longer frantically hammer Heroic Strike to get 100% uptime on it (mousewheels everywhere rejoice!); instead you hit it every three seconds if you’ve got rage. You will leave yourself massively rage-starved if you don’t back off that HS key and use it as the rage dump it’s intended to be instead of just mashing it every time it lights up.  I will also be curious to see what the damage relationship is between Revenge and Shield Slam.  In the beta, Revenge is consistently hitting harder than Shield Slam unless Shield Block is up with 2/2 Heavy Repercussions.  When tanking packs of trash, you’ll hit Rend once on one mob at the start of the fight, Thunder Clap to transfer it to everyone, and then make sure you Thunder Clap at least every fifteen seconds to keep Rend refreshed on all targets.


So You Want to Be(ta) a Prot Warrior: Bump and Grind

This week, Blizzard gave us a firm date for the Cataclysm to tear Azeroth asunder…December 7.  With all the new content coming at us in just two months–and with the mechanical changes to classes, talents, items, etc. possibly coming as early as next week–I’ve been putting a bit more time in on the beta servers lately.

As a result, Linedan on beta is now level 85.  (I’ve also been working a bit on Latisha…she’s 82, and I’ll chronicle her story in another update on The Latisha Experiment a bit later.)  Along the way there, I’ve picked up some information that will hopefully help anyone planning to level a Prot warrior from 80 to 85, as Prot, once Cataclysm drops for real.  (PLEASE NOTE:  I’m going to leave lore spoilers out of this post as much as I possibly can, but I will be talking about Cataclysm mechanics and zones in a general sense.  If you want to be totally surprised, stop now.)

First of all, remember that all of the changes to talent trees, class mechanics, and gear itemization will be coming with patch 4.0.1, which could happen as soon as October 12 (that’s next Tuesday as I write this).  I would highly recommend reading Naithin’s outstanding 4.0 Prot warrior guide over at Fun in Games to get a great summary of the changes that we’re going to face in the interregnum between Arthas falling and Deathwing rising.  It’s a good starting point for looking at the new zones and the level 80-85 grind.

Even Flow

The leveling flow through the new zones is pretty straightforward, and each zone is more linear than ever as to how quests are handled.  This is the basic flow you’ll see:

  • Mount Hyjal (80-82) or Vashj’ir (80-82)
  • Deepholm (82-83)
  • Uldum (83-84)
  • Twilight Highlands (84-85)

The reason that Mount Hyjal and Vashj’ir can cover two levels is not that they’re bigger than the other zones, although Vashj’ir is actually three separate maps and covers a lot of ground…uh, water.  No, it’s because of the experience required to level.  80 to 81 and 81 to 82 both require about 1.75 million xp, not too much more than the high 70s did in Northrend.  But when you hit level 82, that changes.  Each of the next three levels required somewhere around 6.5 million xp.  That’s not a typo.  Six point five million xp per level. That’s an intimidatingly large number, but it shouldn’t be.  There are a lot of quests in the 82-85 zones, and they give from 40,000 to 55,000 xp each on completion (except for simple stuff like breadcrumb or “go over here and talk to this person” quests, of course).  Mob-killing xp has been adjusted upward as well, to the point where Linedan was getting over 10,000 per kill (rested) against level 84s in Twilight Highlands.

Within each zone, the quests are organized in a pretty logical manner.  Breadcrumb quests into each of the new zones are easily available from “boards” all over Stormwind, or outside the new Grommash Hold (or, as I like to call it, “Garrosh’s Overcompensation For His Small Wee-wee”) in Orgrimmar.  Once you establish yourself in one of the new zones, portals will open up at Earthen Ring sites in Stormwind and Orgrimmar.  Also, all the zones except Deepholm can be flown into by your own flying mounts, and there are convenient flightmasters scattered around.

Spec Racer

As a Prot warrior, your abilities and rotation haven’t changed that much from Wrath of the Lich King. The changes are subtle, like Heroic Strike being an instant attack for 30 rage instead of an on-next-swing for 15; or the crit-boosting being removed from a lot of our talents (like Gag Order).  But the abilities, in general, do the same things and get used in the same order.  There really are two big changes:  the addition of Rend as a useful ability (paired with the Blood and Thunder talent), and Heroic Strike becoming less spammy and more situational.

This is the spec that Lin entered Hyjal with at level 80.  I went with 2/2 Blood and Thunder more out of curiosity than anything else.  2/2 Hold the Line’s in there because, in T10-level tank gear, his crit dropped at 80 to less than 2.5%, and with almost all of our crit-increasing talents changed, I figured he needed all the help he could get while questing.  His talent choices at each level were:

(I’m probably going to tweak the spec to ditch Incite completely and pick up 2/2 Thunderstruck.)

Grinding it Out

As Prot warriors, we had an extremely easy time of leveling in Northrend.  Yes, our single-target DPS was low.  Who cared?  We could charge into a camp and massacre it in seconds with a combination of Damage Shield, Cleave, Thunder Clap, and Shockwave, while shrugging off the feeble blows of our assailants.

Things aren’t quite as easy in Cataclysm.  The foremost reason for that isn’t the changes that were made to Prot spec.  It’s the mobs themselves.

A level 80 Northrend melee (non-casting) mob has precisely 12,600 health.  A level 80 Cataclysm melee mob has just over 30,000 health.  And it goes up radically from there.  Level 81, about 37,000.  Level 82, about 44,000.  Level 83, around 52,000.  Level 84, around 65,000.  The only level 85 mobs I’ve seen yet had 96,000 health each, but I’m not sure if those were special and if that’s normal for level 85 non-elites.

They’re not just tougher, they hit harder too.  By the time Linedan got to Uldum, the level 84 melee mobs there were hitting him for over 2000 base damage…and that’s with him having over 31,000 armor and a physical damage mitigation right at 60%.  Stuff in Cataclysm doesn’t tickle when it hits.

So when you combine all that health, high damage, and our traditional low DPS, it doesn’t bode well, right?  Well, it’s not so bad.  You’re still a spellcaster’s nightmare, you’ve got your stuns, and you’ve got two other powerful counters to keep you in the fight:  Blood Craze and Victory Rush.  Blood Craze, in my experience, is probably ticking about a third to a half of the time during any given fight.  That’s 1.5% of your max health at the time Blood Craze activated, every second, for five seconds.  Victory Rush, now usable in Defensive Stance, gives you a big heal–20% of your current max health–whether or not the attack actually lands.  And, both these abilities are boosted by Field Dressing from the Arms tree.  Plus, you can take points into Impending Victory to give yourself a “mini” Victory Rush (for 5% of your health) whenever a mob is below 20% health.  If you’re just out grinding, the talent’s usefulness is marginal, but keep an eye on it when you start raiding.  In a long fight, it could provide a useful amount of healing.

So our pull strategy really doesn’t change that much.  We need to pull (fairly) big and (fairly) fast.  Two or more mobs at a time is optimum for us.  By the time you beat down the first one, you’re probably wounded; hit Victory Rush, get 20% of your health back, and you’re good to go on the next one.  If you have to pull one at a time, you have to rush and find the next mob within 20 seconds before Victory Rush wears off.  And even if you can’t, don’t despair.  Out-of-combat health regen on the beta (as of build 13117) is insane.  Linedan is regaining well over 600 health per tick while standing up.  The new bandages also heal for useful amounts (around 20,000 to start with) so make sure you get your First Aid skill trained up pronto.

One thing you will have to watch for is rage starvation.  Our rage generation is generally good enough, due to the high incoming damage and the tuning they currently have in place.  If you take a few points into Shield Specialization, it gets better (especially if you can Spell Reflect something!).  But you must be careful about your Heroic Strike use.  HS is no longer spammable, and it costs 30 rage.  Chances are, you’re not going to be able to hit it every time it’s up, and keep up Devastate spam, Shield Slam/Revenge as available, and Rend/Thunder Clap if you’re using Blood and Thunder.  Be judicious in your use of Heroic Strike.  Cleave, you’ll probably have less trouble with; I never had much problem with rage when fighting 2+ mobs.

Top Gear

You’ll start replacing anything less than T10 gear almost immediately in Hyjal or Vashj’ir.  This new gear is the only way, other than Reforging, to get Mastery rating.  Our Mastery rating increases our block chance, and it is, in fact, the only way to increase our block chance, as there is no more separate block rating.  If you have T10 gear, it will probably hold you into Deepholm or even Uldum.  Currently at 85, Lin is still wearing his sanctified T10 helm and T10-level rings and trinkets, he’s replaced everything else in his Prot set.

One thing to think about…with Defense no longer being in the game, you can become uncrittable by placing 2 talent points in Bastion of Defense.  This frees you up to try Prot grinding with DPS armor.  I have yet to try this, but I should; in tank gear at level 85, Linedan’s crit rating is an appalling 0.75%, and he’s badly short on +hit and +expertise (both of which are still needed).  DPS armor still has a lot of stamina on it, and Mastery rating is Mastery rating regardless of what gear it comes on.  The upside of using DPS armor would be increased +hit/+crit/+expertise at the cost of a bit of health; the downside would be lower avoidance due to losing +dodge and +parry.  Does the increase in offensive stats balance the decrease in health and defensive stats?  It might be worth trying if your grinding feels too slow, but you don’t want to go to, or don’t have, a DPS offspec.  (FWIW, Linedan started at about 2000 DPS in Vashj’ir; he’s now doing about 2800 DPS in Twilight Highlands, and that number increases substantially fighting multiple mobs.)

Dungeoneering

Finally, I’ll briefly talk about instancing…briefly, because I’ve only done it once, on a normal Stonecore run along with my wife and three guys from the LFD tool.  After all, if you’re a dedicated tank, you’re going to want to instance a lot, right?

You may have heard a lot of doom and gloom about Prot warriors’ ability to tank in Cataclysm, and how it’s a fallback to the horrible days of The Burning Crusade, when paladins kicked our asses at tanking heroics.  Don’t panic.  It’s not quite that bad.  Yes, these are not Wrath of the Lich King dungeons.  They do require some amount of brains, strategy, and crowd control to succeed in.  But they aren’t quite as brutal as, say, heroic Shattered Halls.

Crowd control is back, and it’s necessary, but for normal instances, you don’t need a huge amount of it.  One competent trapping hunter or sheeping mage should be able to get the job done in most cases, provided the rest of your group doesn’t break it (this includes you).  On our Stonecore run, we were fortunate to have both a hunter and a warlock with glyphed Fear, which leaves mobs cowering in place instead of causing them to run.  Between that and his Banish, the ‘lock did a great job on CC.

Your tanking doesn’t change all that much.  The difference is largely in the incoming damage, which is a LOT higher (but so is your health).  Also, without Damage Shield to provide that little passive threat boost, this is where Blood and Thunder comes into its own.  It’s not much use just out questing, but in an instance, being able to place and keep a Rend on every mob you’re tanking helps your threat.  Just make sure you’re clear of any CC’d mob before doing this, otherwise the mages will hate you.

Your TAB key will get more of a workout on trash if your group can’t stick to a kill order.  (Kill order is VERY IMPORTANT now.  Seriously.  VERY VERY important.)  You will be shifting between mobs to drop Devastates and other damage.  Take Vigilance and use it–but remember, Vigilance doesn’t transfer threat anymore, it just reduces the damage on your chosen target and refreshes your Taunt.  Use your cooldowns like Shield Block or your emergency buttons (Last Stand/Shield Wall) to try and offload some work from your healer, because healers are really having to work much harder in 4.0.  Because of threat decay entering the equation, you can’t coast at all during a fight–you’ve got to keep pushing your threat as much as you can and stay on top of things.

On bosses, again, it is key to avoid as much avoidable stuff as possible.  Don’t stand in Bad(tm).  Use your cooldowns when something big and ugly is about to land.  Healers are stretched to their limits under these new mechanics, and anything that you can do to help keep yourself alive early in a fight may give them the mana to keep you alive at the end.

And it’s in instances, and presumably raids, where Vengeance really comes into its own.  Vengeance gives you 5% of your taken damage as attack power for 10 seconds, and it “rolls”–any number of damage that you take just stays as AP for 10 seconds and then it’s gone, so it wobbles up and down.  Once you see how much damage you’re taking in a Cataclysm instance, you’ll realize that you’re getting an absolutely insane amount of attack power from this mastery ability.  Linedan normally runs around 4500 AP now.  While tanking Stonecore, I opened his character sheet at one point and was shocked to see him–literally–OVER NINE THOOOOOUUUSAANNND attack power.  This directly translates to a big damage boost, and, therefore, a big threat boost. I didn’t think Vengeance was very useful when I first started leveling, but after doing just one instance, boy am I a believer now.


Checking up

What follows, Dear Reader, is a cautionary tale about staying on top of your game, proof that, yes, even Kingslayers can come off looking like that doofball from your Halls of Stone random PUG last week.  I don’t tell it just to be funny, though it is (in retrospect).  I tell it to make a point, which I’ll get to further on.

So.  Last week was The Anvil’s first post-Kingslaying raid sequence.  Thursday night was a run back into ICC, in which we did our first heroic modes (just Lootship and Rotface, but, hey, you have to start somewhere, right?).  On Friday night, real life dickpunched us again and left us with only about 20 people.  So our officers did what we’ve done so often on Friday nights this summer…stalled by doing the weekly in the hopes that competent raiders would hear our pleas, magically drop from the sky, let us fill our slots, and head on to ICC.  (They didn’t.)

The weekly was Razorscale.  Ho hum, right?  Lawl T8 content and all that.  So we ended up with a lot of people switching over to alts, and a raid that was about half mains (including Linedan as one of the two tanks) in mostly ilevel 264 items, and half alts of various gear levels, still mostly part-Triumph-geared at worst.  Not a group that you would expect to have trouble on Razorscale, considering the last time we had her on the weekly, she dropped like the housing market.

So we cruised through Flame Lootviathan, formed up on Razorscale’s platform, started the encounter…

…and it all went horribly wrong.

There were iron dwarves running loose everywhere.  The big Sentinel was whirlwinding its way through the raid slaughtering alts.  Gorebash, our longtime warrior MT, was doing fine, but for some reason, I couldn’t hold agro on anything to save my, or anyone else’s, life.  I had no clue what was going on until just before I finally died…and that’s when I saw my bar was totally wrong.

I was in Berserker Stance.  So I hit F6 and swapped myself over to Defensive Stance…and my bar was still wrong.  And then I died.

And that’s when I figured out what had happened.  I’d run a random on Linedan earlier in the evening.

As DPS.

And I’d never changed back to Prot spec from his Fury spec.

I’d switched to his Prot gear.  But I hadn’t gone in and switched his spec.  So he was running around, in his full T10 kit, trying to tank things while generating no threat and no rage, in the wrong stance.

I’ve done some dumb shit in my time in WoW.  I mean, really dumb shit.  Dumber than you’ve probably done, or at least will admit to like this.  But that right there–getting a raid half-full of Kingslayers to wipe on Razorscale, for God’s sake?  That’s top 5 all-time, kids.

Well, I fessed up immediately.  And actually, everyone was so shocked, we all (well, almost all) had a good laugh about it.  And of course we went right back in there and killed us a dargon, with no more fatalities, so we could get our badges and 26 gold and pretend that the whole embarassment never happened.

The whole mess got me thinking, though.  Earlier, on Flame Leviathan, I’d been confused.  I had my Prot gear on, but Lin’s health wasn’t adding up.  He normally has, in the gear he has as I write this, 45,687 health.  But while we were waiting to start FL, I noticed he had only a bit over 42,000 health.  I checked his ItemRack, because it bugs out sometimes, but nope, he had his Prot gear on.  Before I could check any further, we started FL, and off we went.  The health difference, obviously, was because he wasn’t in Prot spec and didn’t have his Vitality talent.

This is where another one of my geeky hobbies enters the picture…aviation.

I’m not a real pilot, but I’ve always wanted to be one.  I love airplanes and aviation.  There’s a reason my Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Flight Simulator X installs, combined, are pushing 100 GB…way too many add-ons, planes, terrain, etc.  I’ve used MSFS to learn just a little bit about how commercial aviation works.

Everything in a commercial airliner is done “by the book.”  Pilots, in addition to all the pilot training they go through, have to learn a lot of aircraft-specific (and airline-specific) procedures.  And most all of it is codified in those wonderful things called “checklists.”  The checklists are there so all the flight crew on the same type of airplane at the same airline do things the same way (since pilots and copilots aren’t assigned as a unit).  There are checklists in an airliner for damn near everything. There are checklists for first accepting the plane at the start of a day, before engine start, engine start, after engine start, taxi, takeoff, climb, descent, approach, landing, after landing…and that’s just the normal ones.  Then there’s an emergency checklist for almost any possible situation you can imagine.  Strange indication on one of the engine instruments?  Checklist.  Engine failure?  Checklist.  Flight instruments go wonky?  Checklist.  Fire in the bathroom?  Checklist.  Pressurization goes kablooey?  Checklist.  Flight crew eats the fish?  Checklist.  You get the idea…there are literally hundreds of the damn things, in big books stored in the cockpit.

When the time for a checklist comes around, or something hits the fan, the copilot grabs the Big Book of Checklists (or on the newest planes, pulls them up on screens), finds the right one, and starts reading it off.  Each item on a checklist is read, and the checklist says who is supposed to respond and what the result should be–and they don’t go on to the next one until the current one is done and checked.  So if the first item on the checklist says “disgronification switch – ON,” the copilot says “disgronification switch,” the pilot reaches up, turns it on, and says, “on.”  Then the copilot checks it.  Then they go to the next line.  And the next.  And so on.  There is no variation, and there is no exception.  By the book, step 1, step 2, through to step N.  Boring?  Well, maybe.  But if checklist items get skipped, and something important gets missed, people can and will die.  It’s serious business.

WoW, of course, is not that serious (for most people).  But thinking about it…what’s wrong with the idea of a little mental checklist before you start your raid or instance run or PvP?  No, you don’t need to put on a white shirt and tie and epaulettes and get your significant other to read the Pre-Raid Checklist to you after she does the safety briefing.  (“In the event of Serpentshrine Cavern, the Draenei female members of your raid can be used as a flotation device.”)  But what’s wrong with training yourself to make sure that everything’s squared away before first pull?

Let’s go back to Linedan and my unfortunate derp before Razorscale.  What might Lin’s little pre-pull checklist look like?  Here’s my quick stab at one:

  • Spec – verify that it’s correct for the role he’s assigned tonight (Prot for tank, Fury for DPS).  If not, change it.
  • Gear – verify that it’s correct for the same role.  If not, go into Itemrack and change it.
  • Stance – verify correct, Defensive for tank, Berserker for DPS.  Hit F6/F7 to change appropriately.
  • Flask – use as needed (before boss pulls).
  • Repair – 100% repair at the start of an instance.  At the least, nothing should be showing yellow.
  • Buffs – all necessary buffs on, including Feasts if we’ve got them.  If not, start bothering slacker paladins.
  • Encounter – understand what his role is in the encounter, strategy, what color poo not to stand in.

That whole sequence can be done in, what, maybe twenty to thirty seconds max?  Had I done that, I would’ve caught the problem in the very first second when I saw I was still in Fury spec, I would’ve swapped spec, we wouldn’t have wiped on Razorscale, and I wouldn’t have a blog post topic for today.

So basically, I do stupid shit for you, people.  All for you.


What a long, strange trip it’s been

Back before Wrath of the Lich King was released, the officers of The Anvil, the 25-man Horde raid on Feathermoon that I tank for, sat down and set one simple goal:  The Anvil 25-man would kill Arthas before the next expansion came out.  That was it.  Everything, all the other raid instances, all our activity as a raid, was pointed toward that goal.  Naxxramas, Ulduar, Trial of the Big Round Room…they were steppingstones toward Icecrown Citadel and our ultimate goal of doing something we’d never done before:  beating “the” boss of an expansion while that expansion was still current content, and making the Lich King our Bitch King.

Now this was a stretch for us.  Since the days of 40-man raiding, we’ve never been a cutting-edge progression raid…call us “hardcore casual” if you will.  In vanilla, we never cleared Blackwing Lair, much less Naxxramas 1.0; Nefarian only died after The Burning Crusade came out.  When we hit Outland, we stalled at the end of both Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep.  Vashj eventually went down after six or seven weeks, but we never really even got close to killing Kael’thas until patch 3.0 dropped, at which point the fight instantly turned from a near-impossible exercise to a stupidly easy no-death one-shot.  We managed to get 3/5 in Hyjal before 3.0 hit, but never visited Black Temple except for one visit post-patch, where we one-shotted the first seven bosses and couldn’t get past the Illidari Council.  Linedan’s still never seen or killed Illidan, Archimonde, or anything in Sunwell Plateau.

Four months ago we dropped Sindragosa for the first time and took the teleporter up to stand before our final goal.  That night, we began working on the fight.  And through the summer, we kept at it.  Again.  And again.  And again. I started likening progress on the Lich King fight to the Battle of the Somme…immense casualties for just a few yards, or in this case percent, gained.  We extended lockouts and threw ourselves at him for three straight hours some nights.  I counted fifteen wipes one night, that’s a 200 gold repair bill for me.  We tried several different strategies regarding Defiles and val’kyr handling, with varying degrees of success.  Time and again normal summer schedule issues ravaged our lists and left us frantically pulling in subs, or dropping back to clear lower ICC again, or even calling the raid entirely.

Last night, we faced down Arthas again.  We started off with two excellent attempts that moved efficiently through phase 2 and got into phase 3 with most of the raid still standing.  Our DPS was the highest I’d ever seen it, across the board.  Unfortunately, both times things fell apart fast and we died quickly in phase 3, not getting Arthas below about 35%.  Then we started backsliding into the pattern that’s dogged us the whole time…mistakes in phase 2, bad placement of Defiles, unlucky timing on the different cooldowns for valks vs. Defile, stuff like that.  After a few more of those, we took a break, came back, and went at it again.

It was the sixth, or seventh, or eighth attempt, I’d lost track at that point.  We started off same as the others–me on Arthas, our paladin tank Keltyr on the ghouls and horrors in phase 1.  Phase 1 was dispatched quickly and smoothly, likewise the 1-2 transition.  We hit phase 2, and the real fight began.

You know that feeling you get when you just know that everything is starting to fall into place?  We had that.  Defile placement wasn’t perfect, but it was workable.  Everyone adjusted, standing behind Arthas, all facing the same direction to keep the valks clustered together.  For once, the timers worked properly so that we weren’t all clustered up for valks and getting hit with Defile instead.  We shifted, we adjusted, we moved in and moved out, and we got to 45% with everybody still up.

Then at 43%, here came the valks.  And the shout went out from our Chief Cat Herder:  “Forget them, burn Arthas down!”  It was a crapshoot.  If we couldn’t get him to 40% while dodging the upcoming Defile, we’d lose two DPS and a healer.  Everybody ran for Defile, ran back in and laid into the Lich King while I drug him toward one edge…

..at the last possible second, he dropped to 40%, ran back to the center, and started the phase 2-3 transition.  The ledge reappeared, and all three of our raidmates landed on solid ice with just mere feet to spare.

The spirits came up and we laid into them like we never had before.  At the end of the transition, two were dead, one was at 30%, and the fourth was full up.  I had the weaker spirit on me, so I headed back in and said hi to Arthas again, and phase 3 began.

The next few minutes are still a blur in my sleep-deprived mind.  Phase 2 is barely-controlled chaos.  Phase 3 felt like it removed the “barely-controlled” part.  People were scattering everywhere to avoid Vile Spirits and Defile.  We were handling tanking differently in the 25 than we did when I got Arthas in my 10, and I had only the vaguest of ideas when to taunt Arthas and move him.  More than once I taunted Arthas and immediately got a Soul Reaper countdown, and only Keltyr’s fast action saved me.

Things were getting nuts.  We had a death or two.  The fight devolved into a screaming mass of taunting, moving, and keyspamming.  Calls of “I can’t reach the tanks!” followed by another healer saying “I’ve got ‘em.”  Vile Spirits exploding everywhere.  “Defile, move!”  “Spirits coming down!”  “Gore’s harvested!”  And all the while, I saw that big Threat Plate over Arthas’ head slowly count down numbers.  Twenty-three percent.  Twenty percent.  Eighteen percent.  Fifteen percent.  Holy shit, are we actually going to do this?

I taunted him back at about 13%.  I was getting ready to hit Vent and say “a million to go, guys, WE’VE GOT THIS”…and I died.  I got too damn far away from my healers trying to get Arthas clear of the Vile Spirits, and there I was, in the Sprawl of Shame, with the Lich King at 12% health.

“Shit, Lin’s down!”

“Want me to pick him up?”

About four of us (me included) said “No!” at the same time.  He was at 7.1 million health, under 12%, one tank up, don’t shift out to battle rez just burn his ass down.  One million more health to go, dear God please don’t let me dying fuck this up now go go GO GO GO DAMMIT GO…

His health on the plate ticked over to 9%.

I won’t spoil the fight for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, but let’s just say, if you get him to 10%, you’ve won, despite appearances.  There’s a pause for some in-game exposition that you get to watch.  When that started, there was a second of stunned silence, as if all 25 of us couldn’t believe we were seeing what we saw, and then Vent erupted with screams.  And just as quickly, was shushed…after all, many people there hadn’t had a chance to see the show before.

I didn’t say a word.  I was too busy sitting there, staring at the screen in slack-jawed shock, my hands shaking and tears forming in my eyes.  We had done it.  We killed the Lich King.

Two minutes later, the hoedown was over, and the fight entered the last 10%, aka Pinata Mode.  And then, it was truly over, cue the acheesement spam.  At 11:33 pm Eastern time, Thursday, September 16, 2010, Arthas Menethil, the Lich King, whatever you want to call him, lay dead at The Anvil’s feet, and we sat in silent shock and relief while Cutscene Happened.

We were Kingslayers.

We had won the game.

I spent the rest of the evening in an advanced state of shock.  It took my hands half an hour to stop shaking and I didn’t get to bed until well past 1:00.  The happy crew gradually dropped off Vent and out of WoW, off to bed.

While that happened, I sat and reflected, and got hit by an incredible wave of emotion that almost started me crying.  The realization of what we’d just done, and my small part in it, hit me.

A bit over four years ago, I first started running with The Anvil as a scrubstitute, a few months after the raid initially formed.  I had no business being in Molten Core given that my gear was mostly greens and I was a pretty shitty warrior, but in 40-mans, you could carry scrubs, and after weeks of not being selected to go, my wife Rashona and I finally wormed our way in.  Back then, our daughter Nublet was only an infant so Rashona and I basically had to alternate weeks to go on those Sunday afternoon MC runs…one of us raided while the other tended the baby.  We switched weeks, sometimes we even switched mid-run if the officers were OK with it.

I hung in there and kept getting invites despite the fact I really did suck.  My DPS was lousy, I couldn’t offtank rock elementals on Garr to save my ass (or anyone else’s), I wiped the raid running the wrong way on Geddon more than once.  Slowly, on the long grind through Molten Core to Ragnaros and then into Blackwing Lair, I got better.  Not good, but better.

The Burning Crusade came out.  By the time I made it to 70, I was behind most of the other Anvillains.  The Anvil had formed two 10-man Karazhan raids and didn’t have enough people for a third, leaving me and Rashonakitty screwed.  Fortunately a friend of ours was starting up her own Kara (called “Dissonant’s Softcore Raiders”) and the wife and I came on as the two tanks.  I went Prot, and never looked back.  We helped take that raid from wiping all night on Attumen all the way to one-night full clears and lots of Prince kills.  It was a fantastic experience.

When The Anvil went back to running 25-mans in Gruul’s Lair, I got in again despite the raid being overloaded on tanks.  And somehow, I guess through just sheer attrition and my own stubbornness, by the time our TBC raiding career ended, I was the permanent second offtank.

Wrath of the Lich King brought us death nuggets, and one of our warriors switched to DK (realm first 80 DK, in fact) and became astoundingly good at DK tanking–so good that he pushed me down to the #3 offtank, in an instance (Naxx 2.0) where few fights needed four tanks and dual specs hadn’t come in yet.  The raid officers kept me on, thank God, and we’ve carried four tanks all through Wrath (the original DK left and has been replaced by an even better DK), eventually going to a rotation system where we all take turns tanking and DPSing.

The Anvil took me in when I had no business raiding.  They let me back in after I took time to head to greener pastures in Karazhan.  They kept me on and rewarded my persistence with a permanent slot.  They kept me on again when better-geared, better-skilled tanks “took my jerb.”  They kicked my ass when I needed it and reassured me when I needed it.  They had faith in me when I had lost my own faith in my ability to play this game.  They gave me the room and opportunity to develop the confidence to turn, eventually, into a pretty decent warrior tank.  They are my friends, and I’ll do anything for them.

And last night, the scrubby hybrid-spec warrior in the mismatched level 55 greens…now transformed into the fully-sanctified-T10-wearing badass tank he never thought he could become…tanked the bloody Lich King. And won.

All of the problems that were spinning around me yesterday are still there this morning.  Our one working vehicle is still laid up at the mechanic and we don’t know how we’re going to pay to fix it.  One of our cats is still a bit sick in his tummy and stinking up the place.  We’re still broke.  The house is a mess.  I still have four projects at work in various stages of “oh shit.”  None of that has changed.

But for a few magical minutes last night, none of it existed.  There was nothing but a group of friends, accomplishing a task set in front of them, and culminating a journey that started four and a half years ago.  Winning the game.

For now, the world can bite my shiny metal ass.  I’m a Kingslayer, biatch.


So You Want to Be(ta) a Prot Warrior: Climbing Trees

(Did you see what I did there with the title?  Damn, I’m smooth.  Hurr hurr.)

OK, kids, it’s finally time for Uncle Panzercow to take a look at Prot warriors in the Cataclysm beta.  Both of mine are over there now.  Linedan is casually slaughtering his way through Mount Hyjal in his usual efficient, taciturn Panzercowing manner.  Latisha, on the other hand, threw on her bikini and took a little vacation…she went on a “three-hour tour” booze cruise toward an island off Stormwind, but instead of chatting up the hunky SCUBA instructor, she found herself, well, drowning.  Then she woke up at the bottom of the Great Sea in the bilge of the SS Poseidon, surrounded by dead Alliance soldiers, beautiful coral, and pissed-off naga.  She’s done the first few Kelp Forest quests in Vashj’ir; unfortunately, after taking her back to Stormwind to train Mastery, a bug has stuck her in limbo between Stormwind and Moonglade, and she may be out of action until I can either re-copy her (giving her the T9 shoulders she picked up last night) or wait for a fix.  I may just wait for a fix, I want to retain the option to copy another character over at some point.

I’ll do another post talking about the actual Prot leveling experience once I do more of it–Lin’s only 2/3 of the way through 80, and Latisha’s barely done anything at all.  What I want to look at in this post are the warrior trees, from a Prot standpoint of course.  I’m not even going to suggest specific builds, because really, I haven’t absorbed all of this stuff yet, and I’m sure I’ll be wobbling back and forth on builds constantly over the next couple months.  Instead, I’m going to look more at the talents and abilities that you’d see at level 80.

DISCLAIMERS:  This is all based on beta build 12759 as of 19 August 2010 and is subject to change anytime Ghostcrawler wants to change it.  Your mileage may vary.  Void in Middle-Earth and where prohibited.  Side effects may include dizziness, nausea, hair loss, carpal tunnel syndrome, hot warrior groupies throwing themselves at you, frequent death, high repair bills, and hearing “not enough rage” in your sleep.  Any rebroadcast of these talents without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited.

Cutting Down the Trees

So that having been said, let’s take a look at the talent trees.  The first thing you’ll notice upon hitting “N” for the first time in the beta is that there’s a new first screen where you are shown the various masteries available.  (The three Mastery abilities only seem to kick in when you train the Mastery skill.)  We’ll be looking at Prot, of course, so you see there’s one ability exclusive to us–our old friend Shield Slam, no longer baseline, sorry Arms and Fury–and three Masteries; Vitality, Vengeance, and Improved Block.

Vitality replaces the old Vitality talent; it’s just a flat 15% boost to Stamina, nothing fancy here.  Vengeance is a mechanic that I’m still trying to get my noggin around.  The tooltip says:  “Each time you take damage, you gain 5% of the damage taken as attack power, up to a maximum of 10% of your health.”  Does that mean that my 50,000 health Linedan can get up to 5000 bonus attack power?  Well, not practically.  Any bonus you get from a particular hit seems to roll off after 15 seconds.  So the AP boost seems to fluctuate up and down.  During normal questing on Lin, it seems to wobble around +100 to +200 AP, but I imagine it will be considerably more useful on instance fights, especially bosses.  Finally, Improved Block is just what it says it is, +15% to shield block chance.  Except I noticed something odd on Latisha.  When she first arrived and spec’d out, she had exactly 20.00% block chance, which I thought odd.  When I trained Mastery, that chance went down to exactly 15.00%, which is what Lin has.  I don’t know if that’s a glitch or what.  But now both their character sheets show only a 15% chance to block.  That indicates to me that either this is a bug, or warriors have a base non-Mastery block chance of zero…which should be a bug.

When you start looking at the trees themselves, you’ll see some familiar talents about where you expect them.  Last Stand, Concussion Blow, Improved Revenge, Devastate, Shockwave, Gag Order…old friends, like the crew at Cheers.  You just expect Devastate and Shockwave to stand up and yell “NORM!” when you pick talents from this tree.  But even old dogs learn a few new tricks, so we need to go through this one talent at a time.  Strap in, it’s going to be a long ride…

Protection

Incite (3 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Heroic Strike by 5/10/15%, and your Heroic Strike critical strikes have a 33/66/100% chance to make your next Heroic Strike also a critical strike.  This effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds. Veneretio had a good discussion of Incite over at Tanking Tips a couple weeks ago.  I think the jury is still out on this one largely because Heroic Strike isn’t what it used to be.  Remember, it’s no longer an on-next-swing with no cooldown.  Now it’s instant and off the global cooldown, but it costs 30 rage with a three-second cooldown.  How our rage generation works out will make or break this talent.

Toughness (3 points)Increases your armor value from items by 3/6/10%. Straightforward, and necessary as always because bonus armor and armor on trinkets get removed in Cataclysm.  Lin’s down 6000 armor from live right off the bat.

Hold the Line (2 points)Increases your critical strike and critical block chance by 10% for 5/10 seconds after a successful parry. This just in:  PARRY GETS LOVE.  About damn time.  Veneretio covered this talent as well and did a thorough job of covering the good and bad of it.  Bad:  Not all that great against bosses.  Good:  Useful against multiple targets, and when your crit percentage is as horrendous as ours is, you take whatever help Blizzard throws to you.  Probably a keeper.

Shield Specialization (3 points)You generate 5/10/15 extra rage when you block an attack.  You generate 20/40/60 rage when you Spell Reflect a magic attack. Hmm.  Note that Shield Spec now doesn’t give you a better chance to block, it’s just about rage generation.  Right now, in build 12759 of the beta, prot warrior rage generation is actually very good, almost too good.  I’m getting full rage bars on Lin while only fighting mobs two at a time without anything to Spell Reflect…with his ICC-level avoidance, that’s shocking.  (It also means I’m not Heroic Striking enough.)  If rage generation is not an issue, then this isn’t necessary.  If we get as rage-starved in Cataclysm as we did in Wrath of the Lich King when grinding, then it becomes much more useful.  Time will tell.

Shield Mastery (3 points)Reduces the cooldown of Shield Block by 10/20/30 seconds, Shield Wall by 60/120/180 seconds, and Spell Reflect by 1/2/3 seconds. Why on earth would you not take this?  It’s better than the old Improved Disciplines because it affects three of our best defensive cooldowns.  You end up with being able to bump your block up for 10 out of 30 seconds, reduce all incoming damage by 40% for 12 out of 120 seconds, and reflect a spell every 7 seconds.  (Also?  Shield Block now costs 10 rage, unfortunately, but Spell Reflect only costs 15, down from 25 in live.)

Blood and Thunder (2 points)When you Thunder Clap a target affected by your Rend, you have a 50/100% chance to affect every target with Rend. OK, maybe I’m missing something here, but…do Prot warriors keep Rend on their bars?  Seriously?  I think I’ve got it shoved off in a corner somewhere bound to ctrl+shift+6+standonmyhead or something.  I haven’t used it in years. Are they expecting us to start?  I don’t think I got that memo.

Gag Order (2 points)Gives your Shield Bash and Heroic Throw abilities a 50/100% chance to silence the target for 3 seconds.  Also lowers the cooldown of your Heroic Throw by 15/30 seconds. It doesn’t have the +5/10% damage to Shield Slam that it used to, sadly, but this is still a useful talent for pulling.  I think it may have gone from “must have” to “nice to have” depending on the composition of instances.

Last Stand (1 point, cooldown 3 minutes)Temporarily grants you 30% of your maximum health for 20 seconds.  After the effect expires, the health is lost. Nothing’s changed here, this is our reliable old ass-saver from live, right down to the three-minute cooldown.

Concussion Blow (1 point, cost 15 rage, cooldown 30 seconds)Stuns the opponent for 5 seconds and deals (38/100 * AP) damage (based on attack power). Again, no functional change here, even the cooldown remains the same at 30 seconds.  It’s just been moved down to Tier 3 in the tree.

Bastion of Defense (2 points)Reduces the chance you’ll be critically hit by melee attacks by 3/6%.  In addition, when you Block, Dodge, or Parry an attack, you have a 10/20% chance to become Enraged, increasing physical damage done by 10% for 12 seconds. Exit stacking Defense, enter Bastion of Defense.  This is how warriors become uncrittable now.  It also takes the enrage from the old Improved Defensive Stance talent, although instead of the chance being 50/100%, now it’s only 10/20%.  If you don’t take 2 points in this talent, GTFO my class and roll a rogue.

Warbringer (1 point)Your Charge, Intercept, and Intervene abilities are now usable while in combat and in any stance.  In addition, your Intervene ability removes all movement-impairing effects. No change from live, this is another near-mandatory talent; it’s what gives us our legendary pinball-of-death mobility.  When I’m in Lin’s Fury spec, honestly, this talent is the biggest single thing I miss.

Improved Revenge (2 points)Increases the damage of your Revenge ability by 30/60% and causes Revenge to strike an additional target for 50/100% damage. No functional change from live on this one either, it’s a big DPS and threat boost so I think it’s mandatory.  But that’s just my opinion.

Devastate (1 point, cost 15 rage)Sunders the targets armor causing the Sunder Armor effect.  In addition, causes 120% weapon damage + 58 for each stack of Sunder Armor on the target.  The Sunder Armor effect can stack up to 3 times. Other than the overall reduction of Sunder Armor stacks from 5 to 3, there’s no change at all to Devastate.  Even the damage is exactly the same.

Impending Victory (2 points)Using Devastate on a target with 20% or less health has a 25/50% chance to allow the use of Victory Rush, but that Victory Rush only heals for 5% of your health. Now this is an interesting little talent.  On low-health mobs, this talent gives you the opportunity to trigger Victory Rush, gaining a single rage-free attack that will give you a mini-heal of 5% of your max health (instead of the 20% from a normal VR).  Even with mobs now having 30k+ health in the 80-81 areas, I can’t see this being useful during level-grinding.  But how useful might this be at the end of a tough boss fight, when he’s sub-20% for a couple minutes?  You’re hitting Devastate all the time anyway, why not have a 50% chance to give you a free attack and heal yourself for several thousand health?  It’s better than Enraged Regeneration by a long shot.

Thunderstruck (2 points)Improves the damage of your Cleave and Thunder Clap by 3/6%.  In addition, your Thunder Clap improves the damage of your next Shockwave by 5/10%.  Stacks up to 3 times. All I can think of for this one is “meh.”  The damage boost is nice, but spending two points on it in Tier 5 doesn’t seem like a very good return.  Maybe someone can prove differently to me.

Vigilance (1 point)Focus your protective gaze on a group or raid target, reducing their damage taken by 3%.  In addition, each time they are hit by an attack your Taunt cooldown is refreshed, and you gain Vengeance as if 20% of the damage was done to you.  Lasts 30 minutes.  This effect can only be on one target at a time. Sharp-eyed readers will notice something missing from that blurb…that’s right, the 10% threat transfer is gone.  Is it worth putting a point into this for a small AP boost and the taunt refresh?  I’m not sure yet.  For grinding, definitely not.  For instancing or raiding, maaayyyybe.

Heavy Repercussions (2 points)When Shield Block is active, your Shield Slams hit for an additional  50/100% damage. Pretty straightforward, although it’s a little disappointing to have to spend two points in Tier 5 for what we used to get for free with Shield Block.

Safeguard (2 points)Reduces the damage taken by the target of your Intervene ability by 15/30% for 6 seconds. Uh…yeah.  Somebody please make a case for this talent, because I’ve never seen it to be useful.  Then again, I know I don’t use Intervene nearly enough.

Sword and Board (3 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Devastate ability by 5/10/15%.  When your Devastate or Revenge abilities deal damage, they have a 10/20/30% chance of refreshing the cooldown of your next Shield Slam ability and reducing its rage cost by 100% for 5 seconds. Good old Sword and Board, basically unchanged.  DING!

Shockwave (1 point, cost 15 rage, cooldown 20 seconds)Sends a wave of force in front of the warrior, causing (75/100 * AP) damage (based on attack power) and stunning all enemy targets within 10 yards in a frontal cone for 4 seconds. Interestingly, Shockwave, our top talent, hasn’t changed.

Fury

Blood Craze (3 points)After taking any damage, you have a 10% chance to regenerate 2.5/5/7.5% of your total health over 5 seconds. Wow.  This is big, gang.  7.5% of your total health over 5 seconds…in beta!Linedan’s case, that’s about 3500 to 4000 health.  This talent is almost like having an inattentive druid trundling along behind, occasionally pulling himself away from watching “Dancing with the Stars” and dropping a Rejuv on you.  Between this, Victory Rush, and Enraged Regeneration…kids, if you’re a well-geared Prot warrior, and this stuff stays close to the way it is now?  You will have to work to die while grinding.  If you thought we had good survivability before, it’s beyond insane now.

Battle Trance (3 points)Your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike, and Shield Slam hits have a 5/10/15% chance to make your next special attack consume no rage. Again, the usefulness of this talent will depend on rage generation.  Right now, our rage generation is very good.  I don’t expect that to continue.  I don’t know if spending 3 points is worth it to get a 15% chance of rage reduction on an attack we only fire off every four to five seconds (averaging in S&B procs) anyway.

Cruelty (2 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike, and Shield Slam hits by 5/10%. Gee, you’d almost think they don’t want our white attacks critting anymore.  A 10% crit boost on Shield Slam only for two points…not sure the math on this one works out any better than Battle Trance, to be honest.  We’ll have to see.

Rude Interruption (2 points)Successfully interrupting a spell with Shield Bash or Pummel increases your damage by 5/10% for 15 seconds. This is a Tier 2 talent that’s gotten more press for the alleged political incorrectness of its icon than its actual use.  You can make an argument, as often as we interrupt spells, that the damage boost might be worth having to put 5 points into Fury to get it.  Well, I can’t, but maybe you can.

Piercing Howl (1 point, cost 10 rage)Causes all enemies within 10 yards to be Dazed, reducing movement speed by 50% for 6 seconds. The fact that this is now a Tier 2 Fury talent puts it, potentially, within reach of Prot warriors.  I’m not sold on its usefulness for a PvE tank, but I can sure see Prot PvPers all over it.

Arms

War Academy (3 points)Increases the damage of your Heroic Strike, Cleave, Victory Rush, and Slam abilities by 5/10/15%. Hmmm.  That’s actually pretty tempting.  HS and Cleave won’t get spammed as much as they used to (well, Cleave might, HS, not so much).  But when you see other talents in this tier, it definitely becomes second fiddle.

Field Dressing (2 points)Increases your self healing abilities by 10/20% and all healing effects on you by 3/6%. It doesn’t take too many brain cells to see this being mandatory for tanks, and quite honestly, good for grinding as well.  Right now, normal level 80 trashy quest grind mobs hit a lot harder than they do on live–try three times as hard.  Any boost to the considerable self-healing we’re now provided (Blood Craze, Victory Rush, Enraged Regeneration, even bandages) is a big plus.

Blitz (2 points)Your Charge ability generates 5/10 additional rage and stuns 1/2 additional targets. I’ve always liked the old Improved Charge talent, and this is its successor.  But with only 41 points to spread around, I’m not sure we’ll have room.

Abilities

Phew!  Well, that’s the tree changes…but we’ve still got to get to the major changes to some of our abilities…

On-next-attack abilities are gone. Cleave and Heroic Strike are now instant attacks with short cooldowns.  This means the (probable) end of having to bind HS to your mouse wheel and spinning while tanking.

Shout mechanics have changed. Battle and Commanding Shout are much more like death nuggets’ Horn of Winter.  They generate rage now instead of costing it, but have long (1-minute) cooldowns.  Since our rage decays so fast out of combat, they’re actually more useful to hit in combat as a backup to Bloodrage, which breaks my old technique of hitting whichever Shout I’m using after I kill something, to keep it refreshed.

Victory Rush. As currently implemented in build 12759, Victory Rush has suddenly become your best friend ever.  It’s now usable in Defensive Stance, and as always, gives you a single rage-free attack.  Oh, and now in the beta, it heals you.  For 20% of your maximum health. You heard me right, kids.  Between this, Enraged Regeneration for emergencies, and the Fury talent Blood Craze, a well-geared Prot warrior simply never stops killing.  You need to keep killing to get that tasty multi-thousand-point heal from VR.  And since Victory Rush has no cooldown…you can pull big and hit VR after each mob in the pack dies for a big shot of health.  I will actually be surprised if this goes live the way it is now, because it’s that awesome and I’m that big a pessimist.

No more Shield Block Value. When you block, you block 30% of the incoming damage.  On a crit block, you block 60%.  The Shield Block ability still basically lets you block everything for 10 seconds, but it’s no longer the total immunity against trash that it was in Wrath.

The order in which you get abilities is scrambled. I’m not even trying to figure it out.  I haven’t leveled a Prot warrior in the beta, and probably won’t try it until after Cataclysm goes live and I have some time to work on my mains and existing alts.

Shield Wall isn’t as effective. The damage reduction in the beta is down to 40% from 60% in live…but with three points in the excellent Shield Mastery talent, the cooldown is only 2 minutes.  Basically, you can talent into what is now the glyphed version of Shield Wall.  Less absorption, more often.

OK, that’s enough for one day.  Hell, that’s more than enough for one day.  If you’ve made it to the end of this wall-o-text, congratulations!

Soon I hope to have more posts up on the Prot leveling experience in Cataclysm’s beta…both from the point of view of a highly-geared raid tank (Linedan) and a fresh 80 with relatively minimal gear (Latisha).  Stay tuned.


The Latisha Experiment, Update #4

At roughly 7:15 pm Eastern Daylight Time last night, the Latisha Experiment reached the conclusion of its first stage when Miss Latisha Morganson, twenty-year-old disowned rich daughter of a noble and unscrupulous Stormwind merchant family, hit level 80.  She did it while talking to a dead gnome (Arly, the gnome DK questgiver at Blackwatch in Icecrown).  Despite being level 80, Latisha is still squicked by dead gnomes, and still washes her hands frequently after interacting with them.  (She’d totally be carrying around a giant bottle of Purel, if the stuff had been invented by fellow dead-gnome-germophobes yet.)

Regular readers of Achtung Panzercow know that I rolled Latisha last year as an experiment to use my own So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior guides to actually level a warrior as hardcore Protection all the way from 1 to 80.  The goals were to validate my own guides; to prove that it was not only viable, but fun, to level solo as Prot; and so I had a tank Alliance-side on Feathermoon just in case I ever needed her.

Based on the results, I’d say all three goals were fully met and then some.  I used my own talent suggestions with only two minor variations (taking Improved Disarm early and not shifting out of it to pick up Vigilance until the mid-60s, and shifting the two points in Cruelty over to Shield Specialization to end up with a 15/3/53 build instead of 15/5/51).  She actually required virtually no outside money from Beltar while leveling.  I gave her some gold for bags to start with, and funded one 30-40 gold AH buying spree in her 20s, but other than that, she’s been completely self-sufficient, getting by on quest rewards, drops, and the money from mining and skinning auctions.  She arrived at level 80 with about 2600 gold to her name, and that was without really trying to stop the leveling process just to make gold.  She’s still only got a slow flying mount, and no dual-spec, but those were personal choices–I could’ve easily ground the money for either one, but I wanted to save the maximum amount to kit her out once she got her special present in the mail from Rhonin Sue.

As for leveling her, it was easy.  Yes, there were bumps, and yes, I’m still hearing the female human “not enough rage!” in my sleep, but quite honestly, I found it much easier leveling her than I did leveling my enhancement shaman Sakula last year.  I don’t know if that means I’m really good at Prot warriors or that I’m utter fail at enhancement shamaning (more likely the latter), but getting Latisha to 80 was really pretty unspectacular.  I borrowed some help from friends at times to hammer out group quests like the ones in Dragonblight (teaming with my wife’s 80 Draenei enhancement shaman to do every group quest in Dragonblight, Grizzly Hills, and Zul’Gurub in one run) and used the LFD tool extensively once she got into Northrend.  In terms of leveling, it’s still far faster to grind quests than dungeons, but the dungeons are where the loot is.

Actually, by level 79, thanks to the LFD tool and some trips to the AH, she was pretty well set for tanking normal instances.  She had several pieces of Tempered Saronite crafted armor off the AH, a Riot Shield from Violet Hold, various other blue bits from dungeons, topped off with a Crusader’s Resolution from questing in Icecrown, and the Crescent of Brooding Fury from killing Ragemane in Zul’drak.  She could get herself over 21,000 health with Commanding Shout up and had around 505 Defense.  I never had any significant issues with her tanking a Northrend regular dungeon.

Heroics, however, are quite another matter.  So as soon as she dinged 80, I immediately headed to Ironforge on a spending spree…and spend I did.  A Titansteel Shield Wall.  A Tempered Titansteel Helm.  A Tempered Saronite Belt to replace her Cobalt Belt.  Some gems (and thanks a ton, Arrens, for sending me those Enduring Eyes of Zul–a big help!) and enchants.  Then I flew around and picked up all of the faction tabards I’d need and did more shopping–grabbing the Special Issue Legplates from the Argent Crusade, and swapping that very slow (speed 2.60) axe for a nice fast (speed 1.50) Fang of Truth from the Wyrmrest Accord; even though it cost me Defense points, I’m far more used to tanking with a fast weapon and very much prefer it in instances.  (Plus, she desperately needed the +hit.)  By the time I was done, she’d gone from 2600+ gold to less than 10…and still only 527 Defense.  Not the 535 she needed to be crit-immune in heroics.

Accepting her non-heroic status, I ran a normal Utgarde Pinnacle to get some money.  Interestingly, from doing the quests in there, I picked up the Silver-Plated Battlechest.  Between that, and her raw Defense skill finally hitting 400…she had 537 Defense.  Y halo thar, magic number.

Unbuffed:  21,251 health.  22,450 armor.  537 Defense.  17.1% dodge, 15.46% parry, 14.48% block.  A Gearscore well south of 2900.

So of course, I queued to tank a heroic.

And the Wheel of Suck came up…Halls of Motherfucking Stone. Oh great.

Now I freely admit, I expected what sometimes happens when a low-geared fresh 80 tank shows up at an random instance…a chorus of “wtf??  u tank?” from DPS or healers with 6000+ Gearscores and egos to match, followed by some insults and group-dropping (or kicking).  Instead, to my utter astonishment, I found that my group was perfectly cool with me being there.  I had more health than everybody but the death nugget, and he only beat me by about 1200.  We were all roughly around the same gear level, give or take a bit.  For once, the LFD tool actually matched five people who realistically belonged in the same instance!

And thus, we ended up taking a 45-minute jaunt through Halls of Stone…but we did it.  Killed all four bosses with just one wipe (totally my fault when I screwed up a pull and got three groups) plus one extra death on Sjonnir.  No deaths on the Tribunal of Ages.  Let me tell you, I don’t work that hard when Linedan is tanking Arthas.  It was crazy, it was hard work, and it was stupidly fun to tank that place on a character that could’ve rolled need on half the loot that might drop.

So there you have it.  A tank, with no heroic or badge loot whatsoever, who bought her own gear and got herself to the point where she could tank heroic dungeons with very little outside help.  The only “gift” in all that loot are two of those Eyes of Zul from Arrens.  The rest, she’s earned via questing, drops, or bought on the AH with her own gold.

I know that life is harder for a tank at 80 than for a DPS or healer.  DPS can walk straight into heroics and get carried to an extent and gear up that way (I’ve done it, several times).  A healer needs to work a bit harder at it but can still move into the world of badge collection with not a huge amount of effort.  But a tank, at least a warrior tank, takes a lot of effort to get ready for heroic tanking.  But here’s the proof, guys, you can do it. Don’t despair if you’ve got a baby tank in the 70s and you don’t know how you’re going to get her into Badgeland.  I’ve done it.  Here’s proof.  It takes a bit of a judicious eye about loot, minimal faction grinding, and some gold (or friends willing to help you out).

At this point, life for Latisha diverges into two separate paths.  On Feathermoon, I will continue to tank with her, probably normals and heroics, and gear her up a bit.  In fact, she’s got 28 Badgers of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, so she’ll be able to get a piece of T9 very soon.  (Had I run more instances while leveling in Northrend, she’d already have at least one.)  Her “other” life will soon find her on Lost Isles, in the Cataclysm beta, just as she is right now as I write this, with no tier gear, no badge gear, and nothing over ilevel 200.  I already know how leveling is over there with a highly-geared raider…let’s see how it is with a fresh-faced 80 who’s never set foot inside a 10- or 25-man.

Maybe I can slow down and even get some roleplay in with her now.  We’ll see.  One thing’s for sure, I’ve grown attached to my six-foot-one poor little rich girl.  She may be my sixth character to level 80, but she’s definitely a keeper.


For the times, they are a-changin’

Soon I’m going to start putting up some Cataclysm beta stuff on the blog, hopefully every few days, as I get time to play.  I’ll keep the actual content spoilers in terms of plot, story, art, etc. to a minimum, and try to focus instead on the mechanics of playing a Prot warrior while leveling from 80 to 85 in the brave new sundered world we’ll all be facing.

In order to do that, I’ve re-copied Linedan over so instead of being level 82, he’s back to level 80.  I was going to level him through Vashj’ir, but a couple of nasty quest bugs blocked progression there, so he’ll be grinding along in Hyjal.  This also gives him the solid raid gear that he’s accumulated over the three months since I got in the alpha.  So he’ll be leveling along with four-piece Sanctified T10, and most everything else ilevel 251 or higher.  Nothing so far has given him any significant trouble, although not being able to run addons means that I can’t really determine if his damage is really down, or if it just feels down because everything has so much more health now.

What I’m also going to do is, as soon as she hits 80, copy Latisha, my other prot warrior, over.  Latisha is the polar opposite of Lin.  She is going to hit 80 (hopefully tonight!) in a mish-mash of blue and green quest and dungeon drops, barely scraping 20,000 health in her tank gear.  And I’m going to keep her that way.  I want to see how bad it might be for a character who hasn’t spent well over a year at level 80 accumulating raid goods…what will it be like for somebody who just hit 80 in their quest greens and didn’t stop, but immediately headed back from Northrend to EK or Kalimdor and started dealing with the new zones where mob health is 30k instead of 12.6k and stuff hits much harder.  Their builds will probably be similar, but their items are worlds apart.  It should be an interesting experiment.

I’ve got other stuff on my mind with Cataclysm, though, and it involves Linedan.  I play on Feathermoon, a roleplay server, and I frequently admit that I should be doing a lot more roleplay than I do, especially with Lin.  He’s my main, after all, my beloved Panzercow, but he doesn’t get the RP love that he should, and it’s my fault.

I had a defined idea in mind that slowly developed over Lin’s first year or two.  He’s basically a decent cow–not particularly bright but not stupid, stoic, loyal, honorable as his culture sees it, dedicated to excelling in his chosen art of combat.  When I decided I didn’t like the clan name I’d given him (“Granitehoof”), I ended up ditching it by inventing a little bit of Tauren culture and making him clanless, something of an outcast from Tauren society.  He transferred his clan loyalty to his guild instead; he refers to the other people in Noxilite, regardless of race and without irony, as his “brothers and sisters.”  Yes, even the blood elves, albeit reluctantly sometimes.

That loyalty and stoicism is layered over a lot of built-in rage…yes, he’s a Cow with Issues.  He pushed harder and harder as he trained to earn the respect of those around him, and sometimes, he’s felt like he hasn’t when he should’ve.  As a warrior, he’s constantly walked a tightrope between the protector of his people and the berserk reaver of his enemies.  In fact, when I tried him out Fury for a bit, I wrote up a whole storyline about how he’d been possessed by what he thought was one of the troll spirits around Warlord Mandokir in Zul’gurub–remember the ones that would auto-rez you?–and it taught him the ways of how the trolls fought, furious, with total abandon.

My problem is, as the years have ground on, I’ve let the stoicism take over.  I’ve painted myself into a corner with him.  He’s gone from having a quiet personality to having no personality.  He’s fossilized.  That’s due to two problems not with him, but with me, the player.  First, despite having this blog and vomiting forth too much information on a regular basis, I’m actually quite shy when it comes to real-time interactions in-game.  I can roleplay within my friends, but around strangers, I lock up for fear of any sort of mockery that I’m convinced will come my way.

The second is the amount of mental energy it takes for me to stay in-character.  The past three and a half years have been…well, let’s be polite and call them “demanding.”  Moves, job changes, deaths in the family, mental health issues, financial stress, a high-energy daughter, so many other things…they all combine to leech my focus and energy, what my wife and I jokingly call “noodle,” right out of me.  There are many who view RP as a refreshment, a rejuvenator.  I don’t deny that, I know how fun it can be.  But staying in-character for me takes a particular kind of concentration that I simply haven’t had.  Paradoxically for somebody who claims to be a roleplayer and has been called an “RP nazi” more than once…it’s easier for me to focus on mashing buttons in the right order while tanking Arthas for three hours than it is for me to work out how Linedan would interact in a simple five-minute conversation with a guildmate.

This has left me with a main that I basically don’t RP anymore.  And I don’t want that.  I want to get my Hordeside RP back, with Linedan.  The buildup to and release of Cataclysm seem like a perfect time for it.  I’m just not sure what to bloody do at this point.  I’m toying with the concept, once The Anvil finally kills Arthas (ohpleaseletitbesoon), of Lin simply deciding that he’s done with all the slaughter and death and retiring back to Mulgore, just in time for all Deathwing to break loose.  Or maybe I can come up with something else to happen that will crack his shell a bit.  Right now, though, I don’t know what’s under that shell yet.  Is he stable?  Is he unbalanced?  Is he good?  Is he bad?  Will he stay loyal to the only home he’s known for the better part of five years?  I don’t know, and that’s a bit frustrating, and I can only hope that it will come to me over time now that I’m thinking about it.  Character changes like that, I’ve found, aren’t something that can be forced.  At least for me, they tend to blindside me when I’m thinking about something else.

In the meantime, how are you planning for your characters’ roleplay to change come Cataclysm?


The Latisha Experiment, Update #3

I'm not overcompensating for anything. I'm too busy trying not to fall over to worry about overcompensating.

I’ll admit, I’ve been slack about reporting on the progress of the Latisha Experiment–my attempt to use my own So You Want To Be A Prot Warrior guides to level a Prot warrior all the way from 1 to 80.  That’s largely because I’ve been slack about leveling her in the first place.  Latisha, sad to say, is not yet 80.  She is 75, but on the upside, she’s a veteran of the Wrathgate, is mostly done with Dragonblight outside of a couple of the dragonshrines and group quests that I’m not worrying about for now due to lack of help, and best of all, is getting xp at a solid clip from a mixture of questing and random dungeons.

Now, this is where I admit I’ve disregarded my own advice in her spec, just a little.  I’ve swapped her spec to be more like Linedan’s…x/3/53 instead of the x/5/51 I originally stated in the SYWTBAPW guides.  See, as I was leveling her, I skipped Vigilance, because I started her before the LFD system, and she didn’t get many chances to tank.  Likewise, it was quicker through the old world and Outland to just quest and grind along.  But now in her 70s in Northrend, she can take advantage of the near-instant queue times that even normal-dungeon tanks get.  So I decided to tweak her spec to be more “tanky” as opposed to “grindy”.  This involved dropping the two points out of Cruelty in the Fury tree, picking up Vigilance, and basically setting her Prot side up to be a carbon copy of Linedan, who is himself fairly cookie-cutter.  There really isn’t that much difference performance-wise between 15/5/51 and 15/3/53 Prot specs right now, but the two extra points over in the Prot tree allow for a little flexibility–in my case, that usually means two more points into Shield Specialization.  Right now, she is 10/3/53, with her last five talent points going to fill out Impale and Deep Wounds in Arms.  I also picked up a Glyph of Cleaving in her second major slot, which is a big help in tanking instances.

Gear-wise, she’s better than I expected she’d be at this point.  She’s got a few pieces to swap back and forth for questing versus tanking.  With her “tank” set in place, she’s got 464 defense at level 75, reasonable avoidance, and about 14.5k health.  So far, it’s been enough to tank any normal instance up through Drak’theron Keep without too much trouble.  I’ve actually been surprised by how well she can hold agro with a level-appropriate group against even large groups of trash.  Having a few years of experience on another Prot warrior helps, of course, but she is proving to be a very competent tank.  I just make sure I go back to the AH every so often and keep an eye out for crafted pieces like cobalt, or later on, saronite.

Tanking normal random PUGs is refreshing, in a way.  I rarely tank heroic PUGs on Linedan anymore.  I use them to practice his Fury spec…and quite honestly, after raid tanking two or three nights a week, I’m happily content to find something to do around the house during the 13-15 minute wait as DPS, and then just merrily roflcowpter my way through an instance as Fury.  Tanking heroics, at this stage in the game where Lin needs nothing more than Frost badges, is just usually not worth dealing with the durpdurp.  But Latisha has to tank…I haven’t bought dual-spec on her yet, and don’t plan to right away, since I save her money for prowling for upgrades on the AH.

So we know heroic PUGs are all about the “gogogogogo,” where nobody talks, tanks pull before everybody’s zoned in, any thought of strategy or skill goes out the window and it’s a straight-up bulldoze toward the end boss at the highest possible speed so everybody gets their two frost badges and gets on with their lives, right?  Well, normal PUGs can be a totally different animal.  I’m on my seventh character over level 70, so I have a bad case of “been there done that”–and I’m surprised at the number of people in normal PUGs who are setting foot inside Utgarde Keep or the Nexus for the very first time ever.  People actually talk.  They apologize when they make a mistake instead of screaming at somebody else.  They make jokes and are even *gasp* social.  Pacing is slower.  There is occasionally even…wait for it…crowd control. Running Drak’theron Keep with a 75 tank and four 74s in the party is a far cry from steamrolling it with five 80s in T9 or T10 gear, that’s for sure.  And I really like it.

Of course, sometimes she does get groups like the one with the two level 80 death nuggets who would’ve had no trouble running it on heroic.  (Tanking for DKs doing 3k dps, at level 75…not fun.)  Or the one with the 74 rogue who did 250 dps for the entire run because she was alternately working up her gun skill and her sword skill…and attacking mobs from the front while doing it.  But for every one of those, there’s been at least one where everybody is pleasant, we move at a nice steady pace, nobody loses their cookies when we wipe, and we have a fun time doing the instances the way Blizzard intended them to be done originally.  It really is a nice change from the typical heroic PUG.

I’ve had people tell me I must be crazy for leveling a second Prot warrior.  Why?  I have a character who, while she doesn’t kill things at breakneck speed, kills them quickly enough to quest efficiently, has tremendous survivability, gets into randoms almost instantly, has a fairly interesting backstory even though I haven’t had a chance to RP much with her yet, and, best of all, uses a playstyle that I’m already fairly good at.  Yeah.  I’m crazy.  Like a fox, baby.


The obligatory ZOMGWARRIORCHNAGES post

Yeah.  Everybody else is going to be dissecting these bad boys like a bucket of frogs in biology class, so why shouldn’t I, right?  Just remember:  half this stuff will never happen as written. Seriously.  We in the WoW playerbase have a tendency to hang on Blue Words as if they’re embossed on stone tablets, carried down the side of Mount Sinai by Moses “Ghostcrawler” Heston.  Yeah, well, read Exodus 32 sometime.  The original tablets?  They got broken. So don’t get too worked up.

That having been said, banzai, my peeps, here we go…
(more…)


Breaking bad habits

As Cataclysm draws nearer and nearer, Blizzard has been releasing information about projected class and game mechanic changes, one class at a time.  Everybody should have theirs within a few days of me posting this…except paladins, who for some reason, have to bubblehearth until April 16.  Warriors haven’t gotten ours yet got ours about three minutes after I initially hit “Publish”, dammit, but we, along with beartanks, did get some very pertinent (and interesting) information regarding rage and on-next-swing mechanic changes.  I’m not going to go digging into huge detail on those just yet–instead I’ll just refer you to Matthew Rossi’s wow.com article on the changes, and save my comments for later after the full warrior preview is released.

But still, reading those changes got me thinking about a few things…not so much nuts-and-bolts warrior and tanking things, but more general things about Cataclysm and what happens when we finally get to the 80-to-85 grind and new content.  And an incident this morning crystallized those thoughts into this blog post.

This morning, I got up at zero-dark-thirty because, with the weather the way it’s been in North Carolina this week, it’s the only time that our sunroom-converted-into-computer-room is actually tolerably cool.  I got on Linedan and ran a heroic (perfectly unexceptional, smooth Forge of Souls) and then switched over to Illithanis to do her daily heroic–she’s very close to being able to get the frost badge belt so I wanted to make sure I got hers in today.

After the obligatory 11-minute wait, what should appear but the Gundrak splash screen.  And then it happened.  Before I could run a quarter of the way down the ramp (I run down the ramp instead of jump, because, y’know, I have a freaking pet), the healy shaman is screaming at the warrior tank “rush gogogogogo.”  And so he did.  He ran into Sladran’s room and pulled all three patrolling three-snake groups before I could even get down to the doorway.

Nine and a half minutes later, we were standing over the end boss’s corpse.  In that time, nobody died, nobody said a word, nobody ever stopped, and my DPS sucked because the fights were half over before I could even get there and start firing…and forget about Misdirects, who had time?  I didn’t get a chance to loot half my mobs, and they didn’t wait for me to dismiss my pet before the two shortcut jump-downs everybody does after the Colossus and Moorabi.  It wasn’t a bad group, truth be told.  We got the job done, got our two Frost and three Triumph badges and our shards, and moved on.  But it got me to thinking…

Thinking about the bad habits that we’ve picked up in Wrath of the Lich King, especially how we run our random heroics that are all the rage these days.  Think about it.  How do your groups do heroics?  Probably the same way just about everybody else’s do.  Foot-to-the-floor, balls-to-the-wall speed runs.  The first pull probably happens so fast, the tank leaves skid marks behind like a muscle car peeling out.  From there on, it’s a mad dash through the instance like the hounds of Hell themselves are nipping at your feet, quite possibly punctuated by shouts of “gogogogogo” from random party members if the tank dares to take a second to actually, y’know, loot something to cover his repair bill.

Pulls are generally done by the tank:  (a) charging into the center of the group and spamming every AOE move he’s got; (b) running into the middle of the group and spamming every AOE move he’s got; (c) death-gripping one member of the group to him, then meeting the rest of the group halfway and spamming every AOE move he’s got, assuming the DPS hasn’t already scattered the rest of the pack to the four winds.  Most of the time, the damage is all AoE…Volley, Seed of Corruption, Blizzard, Flamestrike, Whirlwind, Cleave, Thunderstorm (grumble), insert your favorite hits-lots-of-targets button here.  Cooldowns are blown every time they’re up.  Meters are linked after not just boss fights, but some trash pulls as well.  If the tank loses agro while the mage has popped two trinkets and started firing Blizzards 0.6 seconds after entering combat, then it’s obviously the tank’s fault.  Polymorphs, Hexes, and Frost Traps, on the rare occasion they’re seen, are usually followed by “oops, wrong button.”  Healers can often be seen sneakily dropping Holy Novas and Smites in between casting heals, to avoid falling asleep at the keyboard.

Yep, kids, let’s face it…a lot of us overgear the content.  A lot. There’s only so many times that we can run Violet Hold or Gundrak before we get bored and just want to get it the hell over with, not spending one single extra second in the place because we’ve got four other alts to do random heroics on as well.  I get that.  We do it for the badges, not the challenge or the mob loot.  It’s all about speed and efficiency.  And that’s all well and good.

So what happens when, after 6+ months of speed-grinding heroics, Cataclysm drops on our heads and we head back into instances that we don’t overgear?

We saw a bit of that when the ICC five-mans came out, particularly Halls of Reflection (Pit of Saron and Forge of Souls to a lesser extent).  Those three are a good bit tougher than the older WotLK five-mans.  HoR is the only instance now where I see crowd control used at all (the rare priest shackle, usually).  Those instances gave people fits for a few weeks until even the densest PUG idiot figured out that, hey, line-of-sighting the Falric/Marwyn trash spawns actually works! And it’s OK to shackle and polymorph and frost-trap stuff, really it is!

Cataclysm has the potential to be Halls of Reflection times a lot.  Why?  Because we don’t know what sort of things Blizzard is going to do in terms of tank threat.  Right now, even warriors can generally put out enough AoE threat to handle tough multiple pulls like, say, HoR–that is, assuming the party focuses targets correctly.  What happens if we can’t?  What happens if things slide back to a more Burning Crusade-like level where some or all tank classes don’t have the massive Velcro AoE threat that they do now…and yes, fancylads, I’m looking squarely at you.  What happens if the “AoE it all down” paradigm we’ve been learning since Naxx-freaking-ramas suddenly goes right out the window and we’re back to the TBC days of “kill order is skull, X, square, sheep the moon, trap the circle, shackle the star?”  Will people be able to adapt?

Personally, I would love to see crowd control make something of a comeback, but it’s a risky strategy.  Because when you do that, you start laying restrictions down on group composition.  I’d like to see something more than “burn it” as strategy, but I also don’t want to return to “well, I’d love to do Shattered Halls, but all we can find is a warrior tank and no mages for sheeping, so we can’t.”

The “AoE is all down” strategy may be here to stay, I’m not sure.  If it is, then we’ll have to see what the changes bring for the various tank classes in Cataclysm to see if we can keep pace with DPS threat.  But while I never want to go back to the TBC days of skipping Outland heroics because they were just too damn difficult for this average warrior to tank, part of me secretly yearns to have to do a little bit more than Charge, Thunderclap, Revenge, and Cleave-spam…and make the nine-and-a-half minute brute-force “RUSH GOGOGOGO” instance a thing of the past, at least for a little while.


Patch 3.3.3: Revenge of the Revenge

YO DAWG. I HEARD YOU LIKE TO REVENGE SO HERE'S SOME REVENGE SO YOU CAN REVENGE WHILE YOU REVENGE.

Yesterday, after the servers came back up and people got to start playing with patch 3.3.3, I felt a great disturbance in the Force.  No, really.  It felt as if millions of Prot warriors simultaneously hit their Revenge button…and suddenly went all Rotface and screamed “WHEEEEEEEEE!”

There was some serious giddiness around the Prot warrior side of the WoW blogosphere yesterday, and no doubt it’ll continue to today.  This is mostly because of the massive double buff that our Revenge ability received in 3.3.3.  Revenge had its damage improved by 50% anyway…and then the Improved Revenge talent was modified to remove the random stun chance, but now buffs Revenge’s damage by a further 30/60% and allows the ability to hit an adjacent target for 50/100% damage.  As I said yesterday, this makes patch 3.3.3 “Revenge of the Revenge.”

I think I can best sum up my opinion of what they did by recycling a tweet I did yesterday afternoon:

“Revenge used to hit like a truck. Now it hits like a truck towing a truck. Full of explosives. Driven by angry bears.”

Seriously.  In terms of raw, single-event damage, talented Revenge has leapt to the top of the charts.  Between these changes and the 3.3.2 damage reductions on Shield Slam, from the numbers I’m seeing in various spots around the Intertubes, Revenge is now top dog, dawg.  For some gear combinations, the change is so drastic that there’s actually talk of moving Revenge ahead of Shield Slam (including Sword and Board procs) in the Prot warrior priority system.  Veneretio espouses this in his post on the buffed Revenge.  He states test numbers of ~3800 damage on Revenge versus ~2000 damage on Shield Slam.  That’s huge.

I decided to try some informal testing of my own.  So I took Linedan out and played around with the big level 82 elite undead giants (Pustulent Horrors) that patrol the top of the Ironwall Dam in Icecrown.  They’re not hard to solo at his T9/T10 gear level, drop decent money, and have 68,000 health so the fights last long enough to get an idea of how things work.

I was surprised to find that my Shield Slams were averaging about 2800-2900 per normal hit.  My Revenges were averaging slightly over that, at around 3000.  That surprised me enough, but when I went back and thought about it, I came up with three things that put Revenge in an even better light:

  • Linedan has 4315 unbuffed attack power–that’s a bit low for his gear level.  He’s short on bonus armor (which translates to AP through Armored to the Teeth).  Revenge scales off AP; Shield Slam scales off shield block value.
  • He’s wearing two-piece T10, which provides a set bonus that boosts Shield Slam damage by 20%.
  • He only had one point in Improved Revenge, not two.  That means he was only getting a +30% damage boost to Revenge, not the full +60%.  (I have since rectified that problem by moving a point from Shield Specialization into Improved Revenge.)

And despite all that, it still scraped out higher than Shield Slam.  So it’s a no-brainer, right?  Revenge moves up in the rotation, Shield Slam goes and sits in the corner for a while.  Right?

Well, allow me to put on my best Jeremy Clarkson voice and say…not so fast.

Here’s the reasons why Shield Slam may still be better than Revenge for threat, even if it isn’t for damage:

  • Remember that Shield Slam, after patch 3.3.2, had its damage reduced but had bonus threat added.  Per folks on Tankspot, Shield Slam gets an extra 770 threat added to the damage, and then that sum is multiplied by 1.3.  Revenge doesn’t get the same bonus threat, it just gets the normal boost from being in Defensive Stance, as does Shield Slam, so that cancels out.
  • Shield Slam’s cooldown is 6 seconds compared to Revenge’s 5, but remember that Shield Slam can also come off cooldown at any time thanks to Sword and Board procs.  I have no numbers to back this up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, factoring in SnB procs, Shield Slam’s “effective” cooldown is less than 5 seconds, meaning that’s how often you get to use it in a fight.
  • Shield Slam gets +15% crit chance thanks to Critical Block.  In fact, Revenge is one of the few big warrior heavy hitters that don’t get a +15% critical boost from either Incite, Critical Block, or Sword and Board–Heroic Strike, Shield Slam, Devastate, Thunder Clap, and Cleave all do.  Revenge doesn’t.  When you’re a tank like Lin with a base crit chance under 8%, and maybe 16.5% raid-buffed, that extra 15% is massive.

Some of the boffins over at Tankspot have been taking a few pokes at grinding out numbers, and so far, the preliminary results seem to indicate…it’s close.  Very close.  Close enough that there is no one hard-and-fast answer for whether you should prioritize Shield Slam over Revenge.  It’ll largely depend on gear (higher AP favors Revenge, higher shield block value favors Shield Slam), and whether you’re pushing for raw damage or threat.  Personally, I’m probably going to stick with Shield Slam before Revenge on Linedan due to his two-piece T10 set bonus (he’s routinely critting SS for over 10k in raids now), and the fact that I’m old and set in my ways.

One other point of interest.  These changes have revised interest in one of the weirder warrior specs that popped up initially about a year ago…the 37/2/32 (or thereabouts) Unrelenting Assault Arms/Prot hybrid.  Veneretio had an article on it last year.  The spec is designed around the Arms Unrelenting Assault talent–which reduces the cooldown of Overpower and Revenge by four seconds–so you can see why 3.3.3 has brought it out of stasis.  The ability to hit this immensely powerful buffed Revenge every single time you dodge, block, or parry, with no cooldown to speak of, is pretty tempting, and makes the spec capable of simultaneously boss-tanking and putting out high DPS.  There’s a significant cost to pay, though.  It’s horrible on trash, doesn’t work if you aren’t tanking, gives up a lot of the best Prot warrior toys (Devastate, Sword and Board, Critical Block, Shockwave), and requires a lot of avoidance to keep Revenge constantly lit up.  It doesn’t sound like a viable everyday tank spec, but for certain fights, it may be worth playing with.

There’s a bit of irony to this whole thing, at least for me as an old-school warrior who played a bit of Prot during the days of vanilla WoW.  Revenge used to be nothing but a threat ability.  The damage it did was beyond negligible.  It lit up, you hit it, you basically tickled the mob but it pissed it off that much more.  Well, five years on, we’ve gone from tickling with a feather to hitting with a cruise missile.  And I, for one, welcome our new vengeful overlords.


3.3.3 goes live

It’s Tuesday, and that means…IT CAN BE PATCH TIEMS NAO?  WoW patch 3.3.3 drops today, no doubt bringing with it the usual headaches of extended extended maintenance, broken addons, and crippling lag.  I guess you have to think of it as the pain we go through to get our new toys.

And for those of us of the warrior-ly persuasion, there are a few new toys in the box this time.  Straight from the talbuk’s mouth, here’s the last set of PTR patch notes for 3.3.3, which should be pretty close to, if not exactly the same as, what’s hitting the servers today:

  • Revenge: Damage done by this ability (base and scaling) increased by 50%.
  • Thunderclap: This ability now counts as a ranged attack, granting it double damage on critical strikes instead of 150% and ranged miss chance, and still cannot be dodged or parried.
  • Talents
    • Arms
      • Bladestorm: Warriors can now be Disarmed while under the effects of this ability.
      • Trauma: The debuff from this talent now lasts 60 seconds, up from 15 seconds.
    • Fury
      • Rampage: This effect is now passive instead of being a proc from critical strikes.
    • Protection
      • Improved Revenge: This talent can no longer trigger a stun, and instead causes Revenge to strike an additional target for 50/100% of Revenge’s damage.
  • Vitality: Now boosts Stamina by 3/6/9%, up from 2/4/6%. Strength and expertise benefits have not changed.

That’s a nice little set of changes…and if you’re an old-school warrior like me, you might be shocked to see that they’re all positive except the Bladestorm change.  Only one nerf out of a bunch of changes that big is not something I’m used to.

Of course, we’ll talk about the Prot warrior changes first, starting with Revenge.  Revenge post-Wrath has always hit like a truck.  For some combinations of gear, especially while leveling, Revenge is a Prot warrior’s hardest-hitting ability, outstripping Shield Slam.  In the endgame, however, with the recent big boost to Devastate damage, Revenge fell a bit down the priority list.  One Devastate, with nothing other than the global cooldown, could hit almost as hard as a Revenge, with a five-second cooldown.  Plus Devastate was always available, while Revenge requires a block, dodge, or parry in order to activate (which means, practically, it’s almost always available).

Well, call this patch Revenge of the Revenge.  A flat 50% scaling damage buff is big.  Very big.  Old Revenge hit for ([1454 + AP * 0.207] to [1776 + AP * 0.207]) damage at top rank.  New, improved Revenge hits for ([1635 + AP * 0.310] to [1998 + AP * 0.310]) damage, according to WoWHead’s PTR site.  Now that doesn’t look like a complete 50% damage buff to me because the fixed portions of the equation only went up about 200 points, so take these numbers with a grain of salt…but the scaling factor off of attack power indeed went from 0.207 to 0.310, a 50% increase.  And considering that a raid-buffed Prot warrior is going to have high attack power (Linedan, in ICC-25, buffs out over 7000), even if we don’t see a 50% damage increase, we’ll see a substantial one for sure.  I expect it’ll be quite possible to get close to five-digit Revenge crits…off a talent that costs two points of rage if you’ve taken 3/3 Focused Rage, which you should’ve.

This is combined with a change to the Improved Revenge talent to make it useful again…maybe.  The old 2-point talent had a 25/50% chance to proc a 3-second stun.  The new talent instead functions like a Cleave, and spreads 50/100% of the Revenge damage to a second target.  Obviously, this is Blizzard’s attempt to assuage those of us who continually mumble about Prot warriors’ worst-in-role AoE tanking capability.  But it’s really not a big help.  Yes, the ability to drop a big whammy on two targets at once is nice, especially for an economical 2 rage.  But we can already do that with Cleave, albeit at a much higher rage cost.  One extra target doesn’t help us that much when we’re fighting to handle a four-mob pull, or (even worse) one of those humongous trash packs in the Lower Spire in ICC.  I’ve found the stun to be very handy while leveling Latisha, and it’s literally saved her life more than once (including a fight in the Wintergarde Mausoleum just yesterday, in fact).  But you have to admit, this is smart on Blizzard’s part.  It provides a damage and two-target control buff for PvE Prot warriors, while removing one of the control mechanics (the stun) that had PvPers up in arms over PvP Prot warriors.  It’s a win, I just don’t think it’s a very big win.

The Thunder Clap change might sound odd, but here’s why this is important.  Thunder Clap has apparently always been considered a spell, not a ranged attack.  That’s meant it uses the spell hit cap, which is over 100 points higher than the melee hit cap of 263 hit rating.  It also used the spell crit rule of 150% damage on crit, not 200% as for melee and physical ranged attacks.  With it being classified (finally!) as a physical ranged attack, it will use the same hit and crit percentages as all our other attacks.  It will crit harder.  And, we may finally be able to use TC while silenced.  That’s a nice buff.

Finally, there’s Vitality now giving Prot warriors an extra 1/2/3% stamina boost.  I think this means that Lin should be able to buff out around 58,500 to 59,000 health when we hit ICC this week, if Hellscream’s Buff of Pity is still at +5%.  If it goes up to +10%, which is not in the patch notes?  60k, baby.

Arms warriors get one good and one bad in this patch.  The Bladestorm nerf is, obviously, a PvP nerf.  Why it’s needed, I don’t know; Lin’s offspec isn’t Arms anymore and I never PvP’d with it anyway.  (I wonder if the Bladestorm-happy Arms warrior in ToC’s Faction Champions can be disarmed now.  Hmm.)  This is made up for by having the Trauma bleed-enhancing buff last 60 seconds instead of 12.  Druids also get this change to Mangle, which makes my wife happy; that will slightly simplify her hellishly complex feral DPS rotation.

The Fury warrior change, making Rampage a passive aura, is in line with what Blizzard has done with other similar “on-hit” or “on-crit” abilities.  I don’t believe this stacks with Leader of the Pack; it didn’t used to, and I can’t see that changing.  Still, if you don’t have a bear or kitteh in your group or raid, bringing an always-on passive “4 to 5 percent” (huh?) crit buff is a happy thing.  Rampage is generally up almost 100% of the time with a high-crit Fury warrior anyway, but I can’t complain about them removing the “almost.”

So as always, enjoy crashing the addon sites, and good luck in your office pool for “when will my server be back up.”  Tonight should be an excellent night to sit around and roleplay!  It probably won’t be an excellent night for doing much else.


Let me axe you something

Awww yeah. That's one FINE piece of axe right there.

I haven’t been blogging a whole lot about raiding with The Anvil lately.  That’s because we’ve managed to get our collective ankles wedged firmly into a gap that Blizzard’s left in the content.

We didn’t have too much trouble getting through the Lower Spire in ICC 25-man.  Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, the Gunship Battle, and even Saurfang fell before us with relative ease.  I wouldn’t call them pushovers the way that, say, Trial of the Wake Me When It’s Over was when we first started.  But we moved through Icecrown’s first four bosses in fairly good time, and prepared to assault the rest of the Lich King’s stronghold.

Then we slammed head-on into the Plagueworks.

If you’re just getting ready to head into Icecrown, 10- or 25-man, consider this a warning:  There is a big jump in difficulty between the first four bosses and the middle portion of the instance, the Plagueworks (Festergut, Rotface, and Professor Putricide) and the Crimson Halls (Blood Princes, Blood Queen Lana’thel).  That jump in difficulty has stopped us dead in our tracks.

We quickly reached a very unpleasant realization on Festergut, supposedly the “easiest” of the bosses…we couldn’t kill him.  Not “we can’t kill him because we’re making too many mistakes”–a totally unqualified “we can’t do this right now.”  We ran up against cold, hard math.  Festergut’s enrage timer is so short (5 minutes) and he has so much health (40.44 million) that how well we handled the mechanical aspects of the fight with gas spores and healing through his insane damage didn’t matter.  You need a five-minute average of roughly 135,000 dps from your raid to drop Festergut before he splats you.  Before last night, on our best attempt, we had 91,000.  No amount of sleight of hand or focusing on eliminating mistakes could get around the fact that if you don’t bring that 135,000 dps, you don’t kill Festergut.  Full stop.  Before last night, our best attempt on Festergut was hitting the enrage timer at 30%.  Not.  Even.  Close.

Rotface isn’t quite the insane DPS race that Festergut is, but it’s a crazy fight–Grobbulus on speed, with even more raid-wide damage and shadow-crash-style flying angry exploding poo-poos to dodge.  And you still need a ton of DPS, because otherwise, you get so many oozes running around that your coordination breaks down in terms of the kiting that’s required.  Our best attempt to date on Rotface is around 17%, which, considering the insanity of the fight and our relative DPS level, ain’t shabby.

Well, last night, we went to try and sell Arthas encyclopedias yet again.  We did it in the middle of the godawful crippling lag that has had the entire Cyclone battlegroup by the balls since the Love is in the Air event started up.  (Servers in Cyclone, Ruin, Bloodlust, and Reckoning have been getting crushed for days now with 5+ minute zone times, minutes-long loot lag and mailbox lag, etc.  Multiple maintenance downtimes haven’t done a damn thing to fix it.)  The lag was so bad that my wife couldn’t even join the raid, and then we lost two more regulars due to illness.  We managed to pick up enough subs to fill out the roster, and gave it a try.

Go figure, but it was the best raid night we’ve had in a month and a half.  Maybe the lag got people to dial it in and focus, or maybe the phase of the moon was just right, I don’t know.  Not only did we one-shot all four bosses in the front, but we had two near-perfect Festergut attempts and got him to 8%, and then 6%, before he enraged.  Magically, we’ve somehow picked up over 30,000 dps on that fight in just a few weeks.  If we find about 10,000 more in the glovebox and under the sofa cushions, we’ll own that mutant potato right in his ugly face…uh, OK, one of his ugly faces.  He’s got spares.

It was one of those nights that invigorates my desire to raid with this awesome bunch of maniacs I run with, because we were hitting on all cylinders and having a great time doing it.  The one sad part was that my wife missed it…especially when the druid loot dropped.

And out of all that, I got a new toy to play with:

Now, I got a whisper last night asking me why I’d blow a “suicide” on a one-handed DPS weapon that wasn’t a tank weapon, when my DPS offspec is Fury and thus needs two-handers.  It’s a legit question, deserving of an answer.  The short version is, despite it not being a tank weapon, it’s a significant upgrade for me.  Now, the long version–half because I’m paranoid and still justifying to myself why I took it, and half as explanation of why a tank sometimes gets very good use out of a “non-tank” weapon.

Right now, Lin’s tank weapons are a Titanguard and a Burnished Quel’serrar from 25-man Ony.  The Titanguard has been Lin’s bread-and-butter tank sword for almost a full year now, and while it’s an excellent item (it was our first hard-mode Ulduar loot ever), it’s a tier or a tier-and-a-half behind current content.  I picked the BQ up to use as a situational weapon when I had to bring more DPS as Prot; it’s been part of my block-heavy gear set, and also has been what I use to tank heroics.  But it’s not well-itemized, and despite the old-school cool factor of it being a Quel’serrar, I’ve never warmed to it.

True, the Scourgeborne Waraxe isn’t a classic +str/+sta/+defense/avoidance tank weapon.  It is, first and foremost, a rogue axe in no uncertain terms–not really itemized awesomely for hunters and way, way too fast for enhancement shamans.  But for starters, 48 dps more on the tooltip is damned hard to ignore.  It’s even faster than the Titanguard (1.5 vs. 1.6), and fast for a tank weapon is good.  The stat tradeoff is surprisingly even–I lose the +str from the Titanguard costing me 24 shield block value, but I end up net gaining about 10 attack power, the stamina is close to even (loss of ~110 health), and the extra agility gives me enough dodge that even after losing the 33 parry rating from the sword, I only lose a net of 0.30% total avoidance.  In return, I get a huge burst of +crit (over 2%), a token bit of armor penetration, and a sizeable damage increase over the Titanguard, both overall and at the top end for attacks like Devastate.  It’s going to be a significant bump in my threat generation.  And I’m already running with so much excess Defense (578 with the sword), I can afford to lose 7 points of it.

In the end, I had to make a quick decision when interest in the weapon was called; using Rating Buster‘s breakout of stat pluses and minuses (which I trimmed from the tooltip screenshot), I decided to go for it.  And once I get that new axe Mongoosed, it’s going to become my primary heroic and trash tanking weapon.  The Titanguard stays in my bag for situations where absolute maximum avoidance and health are needed and threat is less of an issue–for example, if I’m kiting on Rotface, playing kissyface with Muradin on the Gunship Battle, or eating saber lashes on Marrowgar.

Besides, just look at it, peeps. It’s beautiful.  It’s huge.  It’s so big it goes over my back instead of on my belt.  It’s not standard-issue Wrath of the Lich King Tier 9 Brown, unlike everything else Lin wears.  It has frigging spikes on the blade. How can I not have my Panzercow walking around with something that utterly badass in his humongous three-fingered hand?


So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior: The Dreaded Heroic PUG

Your PUGs may be this successful, but I doubt they'll ever be this cute.

Patch 3.3 is simultaneously the best of times and the worst of times for new up-and-coming tanks.  It’s the best of times because the old sequential gearing paradigm–you need to do normal 5-mans to gear up for heroic 5-mans to gear up for Naxx to gear up for Ulduar to gear up for Trial of the Crusader to gear up for Icecrown–is right out the window.  It is now possible to skip many of the middle steps and load up on tasty Tier 9-level gear by nothing more than running heroic 5-mans and the occasional raid for weekly quests.  (Whether you’ll actually be able to get into a raid once you get that gear is another matter entirely, and not in scope for this post.)

It’s also the worst of times, though, because in order to get that gear, you’re going to have to run a lot of heroics.  And that almost certainly means, unless you are blessed with lots and lots of friends, sooner or later, you’ll end up using the Looking for Dungeon tool and end up as the tank…of a cross-server pick-up group.

(Insert lightning flashes, thunder, and jarring pipe organ chord here.)

You’ve probably heard the horror stories flying around about cross-server PUGs.  Of trigger-happy DPS who throw all their threat-management skills out the window and go balls-to-the-wall trying to top the Almighty Recount, and expect the tank to magically be able to save them from their own e-peenery.  Of healers belittling tanks and bailing on groups when the tank has less than full T9 and 40k health unbuffed.  And yes, those things do happen…but not always.  Not even the majority of the time, in fact.

Are you are a shiny fresh new level 80 tank ready to get on the LFD PUG treadmill to Triumph and Frost Nirvana, but you’re scared to press that first “Find Group” button?  Never fear, Panzercow is here.  What I’m about to tell you is all common-sense stuff that you may have already figured out–trust me, I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, so if I know this stuff, it ain’t rocket surgery.  But it’ll help, and it’ll give you the foundation you need to stride forth into the world of cross-server PUGs and survive.

It all basically comes down to what I call the four “bes”–be knowledgeable, be prepared, be honest, and be confident.

Be Knowledgeable

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.  –Sun Tzu

Tanking, with any class, is a learned process.  You need to have a sound, well-researched spec.  You need to learn your chosen class’s abilities, rotation or priority system, and emergency buttons.  Then you need to learn how to extend that to controlling agro on multiple mobs.  Then, on top of that, you need to build the situational awareness that all good tanks have, and advanced techniques like LOS pulling.  And then, as the final layer on the cake, you have to know the specific instance–patrol paths, where you can LOS pull safely, kill orders of specific groups, and, of course, boss strategies.

A cross-server PUG, with four people you don’t know, is not the time to be learning all of it.

If you don’t know an instance, run it with friends first–or at least read up on it on any of the various sites out there on the Web.  If your babytank is an alt, start paying more attention to “tanky” things when you’re in the instance on your main.  Watch how your tank grabs groups and where he tanks them.  Watch his facing.  Note which mobs are casters that need to be silenced.

As for your own tanking, it should go without saying…you need to have a solid grasp of the basics of tanking instance pulls before setting foot in a heroic PUG.  Run more forgiving normal groups (PUGs if need be) or heroics with friends.  You should’ve been instancing as you leveled anyway, quite honestly, so by the time you’re ready to do heroics, tanking instances should be second nature to you.  Chances are, a PUG is going to push your tanking skills to (or beyond) their limits, especially if you are a fairly new 80 grouped up with well-geared DPS.  Be ready for it–have your own skills squared away before you queue up.

Be Prepared

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy… use the conquered foe to augment one’s own strength.  –Sun Tzu

There are some very unrealistic expectations floating around in PUGs these days.  Yes, sometimes, people flip out and drop the group when the tank isn’t already ridiculously overgeared–God forbid some of these mouth-breathers actually have to take ten extra minutes to finish Azjol-Nerub.  You, as a fresh 80, can’t do anything about that.  You have to run the heroics to get the gear.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t be as well-prepared as possible going in.  Once you hit 80, find a friendly neighborhood blacksmith and make friends.  Things like the Tempered Titansteel Helm, Tempered Titansteel Treads, and especially the Titansteel Shield Wall will go a long way toward getting you to where you need to be.  Before trying a heroic, your goals, in my opinion, should be:

  • 23,000 health unbuffed
  • 21,000 armor unbuffed
  • 535 Defense (this is non-negotiable and should be your top priority)
  • 130 hit rating (+4% hit, half of what you need to never miss unless you’re Draenei)
  • at least some expertise, preferably over 10

Now, I know people are often slack about gemming and enchanting sub-ilevel-200 stuff.  The thought is, “why waste the money when I’m just going to replace it in a few weeks?”  Well, sorry, folks, but that’s a bad thought to have.  You should always gem and enchant your gear with something. You don’t need to be dropping 250 gold on Solid Majestic Zircons to put into an ilevel 187 breastplate unless you’re absolutely dripping in gold.  But you can pick up blue- or green-quality gems for a fraction of the cost and use those instead.  Similarly, true, a chest enchant like Powerful Stats (+10 all stats) would be a waste.  But what’s wrong with Super Stats (+8 all stats) or even Powerful Stats (+6 all stats)?  You can snag scrolls of those on the AH for much less money, and they provide a good benefit.  Make sure you get factional enchants (like Sons of Hodir shoulder or Argent Crusade head) as soon as you can–snag them on your main if your babytank is an alt.  It is especially important for a tank to push their gear to the limit and get as much out of it as possible.  Don’t slack.  Gem and enchant, but do it wisely.  Make the most out of what gear you have and you maximize your chances of success.

Also, do not be afraid to use buff food, potions, elixirs, scrolls, or anything else you’ve got in your backpack.  Every little bit helps.  When you’ve got 40,000 health, you won’t have to worry about “flasking up” before a heroic.  When you’ve got 23,000 health, it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and do it, just in case.

Be Honest

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  –Sun Tzu

So you know how to tank, you know the instances, and your gear is as ready as you can make it.  And there you are, standing at the entrance to your first heroic…grouped with four people from different servers, none of whom you know and none of whom know you.  And you can tell by your unitframes that they’re all targeting you and wondering why you have 23,300 health when you’ve got the little shield icon by your name.

This is not a situation you can bullshit your way out of, so don’t even try it.  Be honest and get it all out right up front.  Say, “hey guys, FYI, if you couldn’t tell, I haven’t been 80 for long…work with me on this and I’ll do my best for you.”

If people start giving you crap like “lol” and “ffs noobtank” and bailing out?  Screw ‘em.  You wouldn’t have wanted to run the instance with them anyway.  I think, though, that you will be surprised at just how many people will respond positively to you being honest with them.  We tend to think of PUGs as being composed of nothing but nasty knuckle-draggers who actually want to make your life a living hell, but that’s not true.  The majority of the hundreds of people in the Cyclone battlegroup that I’ve run heroics with, on five different characters (one tank, four DPS), have been competent, and if not pleasant, at least polite.  They want to finish the run as quickly and smoothly as possible, get their badges, and move on.  No, they don’t want to take an hour to run Azjol-Nerub, but they also don’t want to go hellbent in there, pull all three Watchers at once and wipe, either.

If you’re a little fuzzy on part of the instance, don’t hesitate to ask.  If you think you need assistance as you’re going along, don’t hesitate to ask–“hey, Mr. DK, think you could death grip that second caster over here when I heroic throw the first one?”  Don’t try to bluff your way through, because it won’t work.  Honesty talks, bullshit walks.

Be Confident

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.  –Sun Tzu

Now that you’ve got yourself ready, your gear ready, and you’ve prepped the group for what to expect…take charge.

Now by “take charge,” I don’t mean start acting like a douchemuffin and bossing people around.  That’ll get you votekicked in short order.  But, you are the tank, are you not?  You are the one who does the pulling and controls the agro, yes?  Then do it. Make sure everybody’s ready, take a deep breath, and pull.

“Taking charge” means that you assert yourself as the tank.  You, as the tank, are going to control the speed of the run, so pull at a pace that’s fast but comfortable for you.  Check the healer’s mana before every pull–his is the blue bar you care about far more than the others (except your own if you’re a paladin).  If the healer’s drinking, wait.  If people are falling behind, wait a second for them to catch up, then go.  If they’re yelling “gogogogogo” in your ear, do not speed up unless you and the healer are comfortable with doing so.  NEVER let yourself get pressured into going faster than you can handle.  At your gear level, you are not going to be able to bulldoze an instance at the speed of a well-geared tank, and you’ve already let your group know that up front.  It’s their decision whether to work with you or to bail out.

You may get people who decide that they should pull “for” you.  Personally, I have zero tolerance for this, and you shouldn’t either.  When I’m tanking a heroic, I pull, period, unless I work out with a hunter to do a misdirect pull (very rare).  Otherwise I tend to see mobs running at a squishy while I have no rage to do anything.  So if you get “assistant” pullers, I say let them tank it!  If they somehow manage to live, great.  Before they run off and do it again, tell them in no uncertain terms that you don’t want them to do it.  If they do it again, wish them fun tanking, and drop group.

Likewise, if people are rude to you because they don’t think you’re going “fast enough?”  Let it slide off your back.  If they continue to insist upon being assholes, thank the good people in the group, and leave.  (Or votekick the asshole if possible, which is the best outcome!)  Tanking is a stressful activity at the best of times, you do not need somebody insulting you while you’re trying to give your best effort.  Do not take crap from haters.  Stand your ground, and if it gets too nasty, leave.  Take a break while your timer ticks down.  Then immediately requeue, as soon as you can.  Get right back on the horse.  You’ll probably get a better group and have a more pleasant time.

My final thought is this:  A significant portion of what makes good tanks good is mental toughness.  You’re going to screw up.  You’ll wipe groups.  You’ll get mental midgets who aren’t fit to carry your mousepad insulting you because you’re a “noobtank.”  Do not let it get you down.  Stay strong.  Take a break if you’re not feeling like tanking–hey, it is still a recreational fun activity, right?–but don’t get run off from it permanently.  In the end, if you are knowledgeable, prepared, honest, and confident, you will prevail.


3.3.2 prot warrior changes announced

Blizzard has released the patch notes for the next minor content patch, v3.3.2, over on the Korean WoW site, and wow.com picked them up.  For those of us of the Prot warrior persuasion, here’s the changes we’ve been waiting to hear about:

Warrior

Protection

  • Concussion Blow: Damage decreased by 50%. Threat level remains unchanged.
  • Devastate: Damage increased by 20%.
  • Shield Slam: Damage modifier from block value decreased, and scales worse at low block value levels. Players in high-end gear shouldn’t notice the change. In addition, threat generated by Shield Slam has been increased by 30%.
  • Warbringer: This talent no longer allows Charge and Intercept to break roots or snares. Intervene remains unaffected. In other words, you can still Charge and Intercept in any stance and while in combat.

Basically, there’s nothing here that we didn’t expect.  The Warbringer change is a straight-up PvP nerf, which will have limited effect to those of us who hang out mostly on the PvE side…although let’s just say I’m not looking forward to dealing with Faction Champions without my snare breaks.  The Concussion Blow nerf was one I hadn’t heard about, and I assume that’s a PvP nerf as well, because honestly, I don’t think we were exactly blowing the top off the charts on Festergut with our l33t 30-second-cooldown Concussion Blow deeps.  Actually, while Concussion Blow can hit for a few thousand damage, I can’t see why it’s getting nerfed at all considering the 30-second cooldown.

The Shield Slam change…now that’s interesting.  “Damage modifier from block value decreased, and scales worse at low block value levels.”  But weren’t Prot PvPers stacking huge amounts of +block value?  Or, were they stacking huge amounts of +armor penetration instead?  In any case, I’ll be tracking how this affects things not just on Linedan, with his full rack of T9/T10-level epics and 2600 SBV in his block set…I’ll also be looking at how it effects Latisha, my 71 Alliance-side Prot warrior, with her level 70ish quest greens and King’s Bulwark.  If Blizzard’s found a way to fix the problem with Prot PvP burst damage (and you have no freaking idea how weird it is for me to type that) and not significantly lower Shield Slam damage in PvE, I’ll be mightily impressed.  In fact, if they didn’t lower Shield Slam damage by 30% at the high end–which would be a massive damage nerf–they’ve just increased its net threat, which may mean our snap threat, which was already excellent, is even better.  We’ll have to see once it goes into place and people can run some tests.

Finally, Devastate continues to get buffed.  Everything I’ve written on Prot warrior priority systems last year looks like it may be out the window now, because +20% more damage on Devastate will move it way up the list.  It may not be the “do it if everything’s on cooldown” move anymore.  It already hits quite hard once fully stacked at 5, so +20% may move it above Revenge in terms of sheer damage output.  Goody, yet more keys to frantically spam every GCD!

(EDIT:  I’m also wondering if yet another Devastate buff will drag the Puncture talent off the scrapheap.  Very few of the “conventional” 51- or 53-point Protection builds take Puncture right now, preferring the more general boost from Focused Rage instead.)


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